American airline apologises for booting nine Muslim passengers

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Washington, Jan 3 (ANI): A US airline has apologized to nine Muslim American passengers from the Washington area who were removed from a flight out of Reagan National Airport.

But a Muslim civil rights group has said that it intends to press a discrimination complaint against the airline for its treatment of the passengers, The Washington Post reported.

"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," said the complaint filed with the US Department of Transportation by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group.

"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," said the complaint.

The incident took place aboard an AirTran flight to Orlando is the latest case in which Muslim or South Asian travelers have alleged that they were illegally singled out for scrutiny.

Contradictory accounts given by airline and federal aviation security authorities also highlight the difficulty of decision-making and affixing responsibility in tense situations involving a perceived threat, The Post reported.

Profiling by security agencies based on race, religion or ethnicity has concerned civil rights groups since at least 2001, when airport security escalated in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

CAIR, for example, publishes a brochure advising Muslim passengers about how to protect their rights during air travel, including how to request respectful searches and how to avoid confrontations with airport security personnel.

Laila Al-Qatami, a spokeswoman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said her group tracked about 20 such reports in 2008, although the AirTran case was unusual because the airline initially refused to rebook the passengers.

AirTran initially defended its actions in removing the nine passengers after others reported their remarks about the safest place to sit on an airplane.

But as reports of the incident spread yesterday, the airline said in a statement that it had offered the group a refund for their replacement tickets and free return airfare. It also apologized to 95 other passengers whose flight was delayed about two hours. (ANI)

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