CHICAGO–His flight from O'Hare to LaGuardia delayed more than six hours, Hamas militant and would-be suicide bomber Nidal Hanani vowed never again to fly United Airlines.
"I do not have time for this," said Hanani, seated at a Burger King in Concourse C, a plastic-explosives-filled duffel bag at his feet. "My jihad against the West was supposed to be carried out shortly after takeoff at 8:35 this morning. It is now 2:50 p.m. How much longer must I sit around this airport like an idiot before God's will is done?"
Added Hanani: "They said the plane is still in Denver, where they are still waiting for a pilot from another flight. Screwed up, this United is."
Compounding Hanani's frustration is the fact that his two previous flights–a commuter shuttle from Assira al-Shamaliyeh to Damascus followed by a redeye from Damascus to Chicago–were also delayed by more than four hours each.
"The bile churns within me, I am so outraged," Hanani said. "I go to the ticket counter, and the females wearing men's clothing tell me, 'We can put you on standby and try to get you on a 4 p.m. flight.' Why do they say this word, 'try'? I did not buy a ticket for a 4 p.m. flight. I buy a ticket for a 8:35 a.m. flight."
"I have kneeled toward Mecca three times today already," added Hanani, gesturing eastward in the direction of a TCBY stand. "Still I wait."
Shortly after 3 p.m., Sherrie Walker, a United Airlines representative, announced that anyone on Flight 225 willing to give up his or her seat and fly early the next day would receive overnight lodging and a $500 voucher good for travel on United anywhere in the continental U.S. Hanani declined the offer.
"Why should I want to fly again on this lousy airline that has given me nothing but the most profound of aggravation? Even for a free $500 ticket, it is not worth it," Hanani said. "Besides, I cannot wait even one more day to deliver my urgent message to the world that Islam is the true religion of God and that its truth is manifest in its power."
United Airlines spokespersons blamed the delay on a combination of factors, citing bad weather in the airline's Denver hub and the ongoing labor dispute with its pilots union. The pilots' refusal to work overtime in protest of the pace of contract talks has been a major factor in United canceling as many as 20,000 flights this summer.
"I do not care about labor problems," said Hanani, fidgeting with his small, radio-activated bomb detonator. "All I know is, I pay for ticket, I expect to fly. If these infidels cannot fly me, they should not take my money. I would not have such headaches on Syrian Arab Airlines, that is for certain."
Hanani then rose and walked to a wall of monitors to read the list of scheduled departures for the fifth time in less than an hour.
"Why are these airlines so incompetent?" Hanani asked fellow frustrated traveler Colleen Mayes, who was stranded at O'Hare when her Delta Airlines flight to Salt Lake City was canceled after a five-hour delay. "It can only be the lack of discipline in this corrupt, immoral Western country."
"At least I am far less helpless than all the other Flight 225 passengers who wait with me," continued Hanani, eating a Pizza Hut personal pan pizza he bought for "a ridiculous amount of money." "Unlike them, I shall reach my destination–the Kingdom of Heaven."
One problem Hanani has not encountered is interference from O'Hare security. When Flight 225 finally does take off, the fundamentalist's bomb, disguised as a piece of geological research equipment, is expected to kill all 300-plus passengers and crew members.
"I was afraid they would tell me that my bag is too big to be carry-on and that I must check it," Hanani said. "The detonator signal does not work if the bag is underneath plane. Fortunately, I was able to take as carry-on. Praise God."
Informed of Hanani's dissatisfaction, United customer-service supervisor Bill Stringer offered his apologies.
"We're very sorry that one of our valued customers has been inconvenienced by our travel delays," Stringer said. "But I can assure Mr. Hanani that we are taking every step possible to get him to his destination just as soon as we can. United Airlines is fully committed to addressing its problems and providing better service in the future."
For now, Hanani continues to wait. All he can do, he said, is hope there are no further delays.
"Upon my death, be it 6 p.m. or 9:30 or midnight, I know I shall be rewarded manifold for my stalwartness," Hanani said. "But try my patience, this incompetent airline does. On the Day of Judgment, may United's employees and those of its subsidiaries be condemned to the pits of Hell for all eternity."