CAIR: AirTran Airways Refuses To Board Nine Muslims
By: Jim Kouri, CPP
On New Year’s Day, nine American Muslim passengers were not permitted to board an AirTran Airways flight going to Florida at Reagan National Airport, claims the Islamic group Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR.
According to the Muslim passengers, some airline passengers complained about something that the group allegedly said while boarding the plane, which led to two federal air marshals ordering the passengers to deplane for rescreening.
In a statement, AirTran Airways confirmed that nine Muslim passengers boarding Flight 175 going to Orlando International Airport were detained by authorities.
The the airline apologized to the group Friday and refunded the passengers airfare and reimbursed the plane ticket for the U.S. Airways they later took. AirTran also promised to give them a free trip back to Washington.
According to a CAIR press release, the self-proclaimed Islamic civil rights and advocacy group, CAIR filed a complaint with the US Department of Transportation following the incident.
CAIR officials wrote, “The Muslim passengers were removed from the flight and allegedly denied re- boarding and barred from other AirTran flights after another passenger overhead one of the Muslims make a comment about the safest place to sit on a plane. CAIR is working with the Muslim passengers and the airline to deal with the civil liberties issues resulting from the incident.”
In its DOT complaint, CAIR stated:
“It is incumbent on any airline to ensure that members of the traveling public are not singled out or mistreated based on their perceived race, religion or national origin. We believe this disturbing incident would never have occurred had the Muslim passengers removed from the plane not been perceived by other travelers and airline personnel as members of the Islamic faith.”
“There is a big difference between ‘see something, say something,’ which we all support, and reporting suspicions based solely on stereotyping and bias,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad said CAIR publishes a “Know Your Rights and Responsibilities” pocket guide that includes advice for airline passengers who believe they have been treated in a discriminatory manner.
The guide states: “As an airline passenger, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel. You have the right to complain about treatment that you believe is discriminatory.” It also recommends that passengers ask for the names of all persons involved in an incident and to ask specifically if they have been singled out because of their “name, looks, dress, race, ethnicity, faith, or national origin.”
AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of AirTran Holdings, Inc. on Friday issued the following statement regarding AirTran flight 175 originating at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on January 1, 2009:
“At departure time, the Captain of flight 175 informed the airline that there were two federal air marshals onboard who contacted local and federal Washington law enforcement officials for a security related issue onboard the aircraft involving verbal comments made by a passenger and overheard by other passengers. The airline then advised the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
“It was determined that all 104 passengers onboard must deplane and passengers, crew, baggage and the aircraft should be re-screened. After the re-screening of the passengers, crew, bags and the aircraft, 95 passengers were allowed to reboard the aircraft and nine were detained for interrogation by the local law enforcement officials, the FBI and the TSA. Flight 175 departed nearly two hours late and arrived safely at its destination.
“Later in the day, six of the nine detained passengers approached the customer service counter and asked to be rebooked to Orlando. At the time, the airline had not been notified by the authorities that the passengers were cleared to fly and would not rebook them until receiving said clearance. One passenger in the party became irate and made inappropriate comments. The local law enforcement officials came over and escorted the passengers away from the gate podium.
“AirTran Airways complied with all TSA, law enforcement and Homeland Security directives and had no discretion in the matter. The nine passengers involved were all offered full refunds and may fly with AirTran Airways again after having been released from questioning and cleared by the law enforcement officials.”
Later on Friday, January 2, 2009, AirTran issued an official apology:
“Our goal at AirTran Airways is to offer a safe, pleasant and positive travel experience for all customers every day on every flight. We sincerely regret that the passengers on flight 175 did not have a positive travel experience on January 1, 2009.
“Security is a shared responsibility and this incident highlights the multiple layers of security that are in place in today’s aviation environment. While ultimately this issue proved to be a misunderstanding, the steps taken were necessary.
“Alert passengers reported to the flight crew what they believed were inappropriate comments allegedly made by one of the passengers onboard, and the flight crew notified the federal air marshals that were assigned to the flight. The federal air marshals onboard contacted local and federal law enforcement officials who came to the gate and escorted the individuals in question off the aircraft to ensure they posed no threat to the flight. After deplaning the remaining passengers and performing a sweep of the aircraft and rescreening all passengers, crew, checked and carry-on baggage, the flight departed two hours late without the nine passengers who were detained for questioning.
“We regret that the issue escalated to the heightened security level it did on New Year’s Day, but we trust everyone understands that the security and the safety of our passengers is paramount and cannot be compromised.
“We apologize to all of the passengers — to the nine who had to undergo extensive interviews from the authorities and to the 95 who ultimately made the flight. Nobody on Flight 175 reached their destination on time on New Year’s Day, and we regret it.
“The airline has refunded the air fares of the nine passengers detained for questioning, has agreed to reimburse the passengers for expenses incurred by taking another airline and has also offered to transport the passengers home to Washington, DC, free of charge.”
“I guess now the airport security officers and airlines can go back to harassing little old ladies and people in wheelchairs while ignoring Muslims boarding aircraft,” said a New Jersey police commander who requested anonymity.
“As long as US and airline officials cave in to complaints made by groups like CAIR, the threat to the lives of [airline] passengers will continue,” said the decorated police lieutenant.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he’s the new editor for the House Conservatives Fund’s weblog. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.
He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He’s also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He’s a news writer for TheConservativeVoice.Com and PHXnews.com. He’s also a columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he’s syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. He’s appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com. Kouri’s own website is located at http://jimkouri.us
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc. To subscribe to Kouri's newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write "Subscription" on the subject line.