Bin Laden's boarding pass

 A I Ww News 2010 06 02 Blog Binladenpass
British Airways used this mocked-up image in an internal magazine to illustrate its new mobile-boarding pass system. Ooops. From Yahoo!:
So how did this happen? The short answer is that no one knows – or at least, no one's telling if they do. A British Airways spokeswoman told ABC News reporter Scott Mayerowitz that "a mistake has been made in this internal publication and we are working to find out how this occurred." And in response to a follow-up call from Yahoo! News, another spokeswoman for the airline remained firmly on message, saying, "We're still working to find out how this occurred at this time."

The gaffe could be the result of a tasteless prank that got out of hand – but current speculation is running toward the theory that it's the handiwork of a disgruntled employee. British Airways is currently locked in a labor dispute with the union representing its cabin-crew workers, and the strike has grounded flights for thousands of travelers in one of the busiest travel times of the year.
"British Airways red-faced over faux image of Bin Laden boarding pass" (Thanks, Gabe Adiv!)

UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments, looks like the creator of that mock-up used this fake boarding pass generator linked to from BB in 2006!


  1. What’s the BFD? Bad joke, bad editing/qc.
    By responding to it you make a bigger deal than is necessary.
    And it should be trivial to figure out who was responsible, or at least to narrow down the suspects to a handful of people, assuming you feel the need to punish someone for this tasteless yet ultimately harmless gaffe.

  2. That’s just the cover story. The real scandal is that Bin Laden was able to slip by airport security while they were distracted by a magazine photo shoot.

  3. Let me take a guess. Someone did a goofy version while doing the layout and forgot to change the name before publishing. The editor didn’t take a close look at the image either. Stuff like this happens in the tech biz. Get over it. I’ve used bogus placeholder data myself and narrowly missed releasing it into the wild.

    1. This is almost definitely the answer. I’ve put far worse things than this in placeholder data for my job. It looks like a simple mistake, blown out of all proportion.

  4. That ticket looks remarkably like the fake boarding pass generator that was posted on Boingboing back in 2006. In fact, if you follow the link at the end of the article, the EXACT same info appears as is on the British Air internal publication (except the date has been ‘shopped). At least we know where the prankster got their fake-o ticket…

  5. given the date is 26 Oct 2010 Laden has plenty of time to arrange a ride to the airport and get a double latte before boarding.

  6. as a graphic designer who frequently has to mock up things for presentations/for the boss to see, google image search is a huge resources to find a quick image to put in a layout. if you GIS “boarding pass” the bin laden pass is one of the first that comes up.

    so my guess is that some under-appreciated, under-paid studio artist was under deadline to get this image to his art director/editor so he just GIS’d for an image of a boarding pass. noticed the date was 4 years old, so he changed that, then put it in the mock up to send along to get approval. he probably heard nothing about it, then 2 weeks later his mocked up, low resolution image is printed in the internal company magazine.

    that’s my guess anyway, based on how these things seem to happen

  7. What’s the big deal?
    At worst this is a joke/prank in bad taste.

    It also illuminates human assumption/discrimination as there are other people that have that same name. I wouldn’t want have even a remotely similar name and have to travel these days, especially in the states.

    1. thanks for sharing that link. it is good to discuss these things as a society. no matter how hard we try to remain neutral it is human nature to make assumptions based on looks. being aware of those assumptions and the fact that we have a tendency to make them allows us to move beyond them and not act or react to them on upon them.

  8. Oh darn…not that I usually comment on others’ looks.
    Sorry if I caused any good people who look like mass murderers any offense.

  9. I think it is pretty funny. Not only that, but I would never have suspected that someone would find it tasteless or offensive. This is, I suppose, one of many reasons I am not an editor.

  10. The name and seat number is the default on the fake boarding pass generator. No prank here. Move along.

  11. Labor dispute or not, I don’t buy “disgruntled employee” – that’s the exact same thing you see every time on Snopes whenever there’s something inappropriate snuck into a wholesome Disney poster/painting.

  12. What is the big deal? he hasn’t got on the plain yet. Its for Oct 26, 2010 and it’s Oct 5th. I guess they could have got him if this hadn’t been out where everyone could see it. Hey maybe he will stil get on the plain. He’s not real bright.

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