How would you feel if you were searched by the TSA, then “randomly” searched and questioned again prior to boarding, then required by the airline gate agent to show your identification while other passengers were not, then pulled off the airplane because those around you allegedly felt nervous, then searched and cleared by the TSA again, then still been denied boarding because the captain was “uncomfortable” transporting you? All because of the way you looked.
I would be suing as well.
Two Islamic religious leaders from Tennessee filed a lawsuit against two airlines Monday, claiming they were discriminated against and not allowed to fly on a plane in May because of the way they looked…
In the suit, the two said they arrived at the Memphis, Tennesseee, International Airport on May 6, wearing traditional Muslim attire, including religious garb and headgear. The two were headed from Memphis to Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend a conference on anti-Muslim bigotry…
Fast-forward to the part where the aircraft returns to the gate, the pilot orders the two men off the plane, and the TSA performs a “comprehensive patdown” (again) before “clearing” the passengers to travel:
…the suit claims the pilot would not allow them on the plane and then refused to give a reason. A Delta supervisor went on the plane to explain to the pilot he could not exclude the men without “a rational basis,” the suit said. When the supervisor returned, he was “irate,” the suit said, and told them men, “He is wrong,” referring to the pilot.
A higher-ranking Delta manager was requested, the suit said. But while the men waited for the manager to arrive, the plane left the gate.
According to the complaint, the airline manager ordered the plane back to the terminal, then boarded the plane to speak with the pilot. The manager returned, “visibly distraught,” a half-hour later, according to the suit.
The manager told the men that the pilot, “despite acknowledging that both plaintiffs were cleared to board, was personally objecting to the plaintiffs being on his flight. The pilot indicated that he believed the mere presence and perception of the plaintiffs on his plane would make other passengers feel uncomfortable.”
So let’s get this straight: you have an Atlantic-Southeast pilot (a Delta regional subsidiary), probably a teenager or in his 20s, unilaterally deciding that he will not transport two passengers because of what essentially boils down to their religious beliefs. Ultimately, a captain has the final say on whether a flight operates or not, but religious bigotry running afoul of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should not be part of the calculus.
There is an arguable bright spot in this story:
The Delta manager made an announcement in the cabin of the plane stating if any passengers felt apprehensive about either of the men then they could get on another plane and receive a voucher, the lawsuit stated. “Except for the pilot, however, no one else on that plane indicated that they were uncomfortable with either plaintiff being on the flight,” the complaint said.
But an unhappy ending:
In the end, the plane left without Rahman and Zaghloul.
What happened? The Delta manager shows some courage (though I would not have dangled a voucher in front of bigoted passengers), which should be commended, but the flight still goes out without the two men.
I find it sad that none of the passengers or other flight crew onboard stood up for the two men or refused to fly when the two men were kicked off the aircraft. I’d like to think I would have stepped off the aircraft and refused to fly had I been on the flight…
Folks, this is pure bigotry and must be condemned. The type of toxic thinking displayed by the Atlantic-Southeast pilot is antithetical to the premise of the American experiment and a harrowing reminder that ignorance persists. The pilot should be fired immediately.
Although I understand the caution behind the uninspired press statement released by Delta and Atlantic Southeast, their statement seemingly defends the pilot. I see no evidence to suggest that the pilot acted in the best interest of passenger safety and security.
Atlantic Southeast and Delta oppose discrimination in any form from any source and our employees act at all times in the best interest of passenger safety and security. We cannot comment further on pending litigation.
Despite the best efforts of Delta ground staff at Memphis, Delta and Atlantic Southeast deserve to be sued for what happened, primarily to ensure that a similar incident does not occur again. I expect a generous settlement.