A TSA inspector and sniffer dog screen passengers at Miami International Airport in Florida. (AFP Photo/Joe Raedle)
Word to all Chris Rock impersonators out there: joking about carrying a bomb at an airport can only make you a headliner in court.
The latest person to learn that lesson the hard way is a doctor whose wisecrack about carrying C-4 explosives at Miami International Airport led to an evacuation and a visit from the bomb squad, and earned him a fine of almost $90,000.
Venezuelan doctor Manuel Alvarado, 60, agreed to pay a fine of $89,172 in exchange for prosecutors dropping charges of making a false bomb threat and criminal mischief. His attorney, Brian Bieber, told AFP it was a “momentary lapse of reason in making these statements,” adding, “He is extremely remorseful. He had no intent to place anyone in fear. He made what turned out to be the worst mistake of his life.”
Alvarado’s badly received joke happened October 22 just before he was to board an Avianca flight to Bogota, Colombia. When a security officer asked him some routine questions, Alvarado answered that he was carrying C-4 explosives.
Even after he corrected himself, the airport was evacuated, flights were delayed, and the bomb squad was brought in.
"There is never an excuse for that kind of joke," business travel expert Joe Brancatelli told Yahoo Travel. “Even 13 years on from 9/11, there simply is no reason to try to mine that vein of humor. Security personnel have no stomach for it, they are trained to overreact and assume there is evil intent. And, most importantly, no one finds this stuff funny.”
Alvarado will be allowed to return home after his fine is paid.
This was just the latest in a series of post-September 11 gaffes where fliers found out just how seriously airports take jokes about bombs. For instance, a man on a plane at Mactan-Cebu International Airport in the Philippines was arrested in November for joking to a flight attendant that he couldn’t place his bag in the overhead bin because he was carrying explosives.
The same kind of arrest happened at Miami’s airport last year when a 43-year-old man joked to a TSA agent that he was carrying a bomb.