9 Muslims Are Pulled From Plane and Denied Re-entry; Airline Apologizes Next Day
AirTran Airways apologized Friday for an incident on New Year’s Day in which airline officials pulled nine Muslim passengers off a domestic flight and refused to rebook them, even though F.B.I. agents said they had done nothing wrong.
The incident occurred Thursday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport after members of a Muslim family boarding a flight to Orlando, Fla., had a conversation about the safest place to sit in the event of an accident. Other passengers reported the remarks as suspicious to a flight attendant.
The passengers, all American-born United States citizens except for one, expressed frustration Friday in not being allowed back on the plane once the F.B.I. had cleared them. They had to buy tickets on US Airways.
Initially, AirTran said it was not at fault. Later on Friday, it called the incident a “misunderstanding” and apologized to all 104 passengers, including the nine detained.
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“We regret that the issue escalated to the heightened security level it did,” the airline said, “but we trust everyone understands that the security and the safety of our passengers is paramount and cannot be compromised.”
Kashif Irfan, 34, one of the detained passengers, a doctor residing in Alexandria, Va., said by phone: “We are very grateful for the apology, and we’re impressed by the outpouring of respect that AirTran has demonstrated after the fact. We have not ruled out the possibility of legal action.”
On behalf of the Muslim passengers, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group, filed a complaint Friday with the aviation consumer protection division of the Transportation Department requesting an investigation.
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