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Overzealous AirTran Boots 9 Passengers Off 1002

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the fear-mongering-works dept.
An anonymous readerwrites "On Friday the wonderfully customer centric AirTran decided to remove a family of 9 US born Muslims after a comment between two family members regarding how close to the Jet engine they had been seated. The wonderful part is that after the FBI cleared the family 2 hours later, AirTran refused to fly the family, and refused to rebook them on their way from Washington to Orlando, Florida. The family purchased additional tickets on US Airways later that day, after AirTran requested that the irate father be escorted from their booking podiums by security. This whole story highlights the pathetic customer service we are getting from the Airlines these days — they actually treat us like criminals first and ask questions later. Just don't get me started on Delta." It's nice to see that stupidity still knows no bounds.
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Overzealous AirTran Boots 9 Passengers Off

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  • They got a refund (Score:5, Informative)

    by Linker3000 (626634) on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:43PM (#26305409) Journal

    Apparently, they have now received a refund:

    Linky [yahoo.com]

    • by EdIII (1114411) * on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:58PM (#26305603)

      Refund has nothing to do with it. It was racism and racial profiling that got them kicked off the plane, interviewed by the FBI, their trip delayed, etc. The financial loss of the original plane tickets is nothing compared to the trauma they have had to deal with mentally.

      Let's be real honest with each other here. I mean everybody.

      1) A white family of nine people get on a plane. They are dressed in contemporary clothing. Three of the young adults make a remark about where would be the safest place to sit on the plane in the event of an accident or explosion.

      2) A brown family of nine people get on a plane. They are dressed in traditional clothing of Islamic people. Three of the young adults make a remark about where would be the safest place to sit on the plane in the event of an accident or explosion.

      Hell why not:

      3) A Chinese family of nine people get on the plane. They are dressed in clothing straight out of 1920's Shanghai. Three of the young adults in thick Chinese accents remark about where would be the safest place to sit on the plane in the event of an accident or explosion.

      The reason why other people felt uncomfortable on the plane had everything to do with the appearance of this family. Those preconceptions and stereotypes led them to interpret those remarks differently then they would have with #1 or #3.

      It was racism. Period.

      • by Snarfangel (203258) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:18PM (#26305827) Homepage

        3) A Chinese family of nine people get on the plane. They are dressed in clothing straight out of 1920's Shanghai. Three of the young adults in thick Chinese accents remark about where would be the safest place to sit on the plane in the event of an accident or explosion.

        I'd be afraid they'd stop the plane, run around it, then get back in.

      • by MightyYar (622222) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:25PM (#26305937)

        This event is exactly what you could expect when you go around telling people, "If you see something, say something."

        Is this racism? Yes. However, bear in mind that you are asking EVERYONE to go out and look for suspicious activity - even people who are completely unprepared to identify it.

        Anyway, the airline has since apologized and offered to fly them back home for free, and frankly I think that the whole thing got blown out of proportion. Hell, even the family admitted that the FBI was very professional - their beef was with the girls that reported them and the stupid airline, which apparently has some really bad decision makers on the ground.

        • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@gmailPASCAL.com minus language> on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:44PM (#26306177)

          Anyway, the airline has since apologized and offered to fly them back home for free, and frankly I think that the whole thing got blown out of proportion.

          Though at the same time, if it was in fact blown out of proportion (which I don't quite believe), I suspect that the only reason they got their refund and apology was because it was blown out of proportion.

          • Re:They got a refund (Score:5, Interesting)

            by fishbowl (7759) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:02PM (#26306413)

            >I suspect that the only reason they got their refund and apology was because it was blown out of proportion.

            They only got the refund after someone in senior management got word that one of the counter clerks had actually refused a request from an FBI agent to issue a new ticket. I guess the potential liability that comes from having faced down the FBI was much greater than the exposure to a civil suit from the passenger....

          • by MightyYar (622222) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:03PM (#26306433)

            Actually, it sounds like the airline gave them a refund right away. They would not have gotten an apology or a free return ticket without the publicity, however.

            I didn't mean to imply that the media was solely responsible for blowing things out of proportion - the airline had a hand in it by being completely loony. But our "see something, say something" mentality will ensure that this incident gets repeated again... I meant to downplay the uniqueness of the event more than the size of the injustice.

      • Re:They got a refund (Score:5, Informative)

        by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:26PM (#26305951) Homepage Journal

        On a good note the FBI even tried to get them back on the plane when they found out it was just silliness.
        A combination of a few silly passengers, dumb rent a cops, and a REALLY STUPID AIRLINE.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by norminator (784674)
        Close your eyes. Picture a convict. What's he wearing? Nothing special, baseball cap on backwards, baggy pants... he says something ordinary like... 'yo, thats shizzle.' Okay. Now slowly open your eyes again. Who are you picturing? A black man? Wrong. That was a white woman. Surprised? Well, shame on you.

        --Michael Scott
      • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:50PM (#26306255)

        Let's be real honest with each other here.

        Huh, what, why?

        I mean everybody.

        Including me?

        1) A white family of nine people get on a plane.

        Well, I tossed an exception right there. White family of nine . . . that's actually really funny!

        2) A brown family of nine people get on a plane.

        No, they get booted from the plane.

        3) A Chinese family of nine people get on the plane.

        If the Chinese are leaving the country in such numbers, that means that the economy is going to hell in a hand-basket.

        You have been warned.

        • Mormons (Score:5, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:12PM (#26306555)

          1) A white family of nine people get on a plane.

          Well, I tossed an exception right there. White family of nine . . . that's actually really funny!

          Wait,

          PolygamousRanchKid doesn't know about Mormons?

      • by MrMr (219533) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:54PM (#26306309)
        It was racism.
        No, It was profiling. A technique that combines racial, religious, ethnic and political bigotry to increase the sense of security of the voters.
  • US born (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RockMFR (1022315) on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:44PM (#26305411)
    I'm glad the summary specifies that they were born in the US. Because otherwise it would be okay to treat them like dirt, right?
    • Re:US born (Score:4, Interesting)

      by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:27PM (#26305969)

      I'm glad the summary specifies that they were born in the US. Because otherwise it would be okay to treat them like dirt, right?

      That they are a part of US culture cuts away a certain amount of confusion. Where you grow up does tend to affect your mannerisms, cultural queues and understanding, etc. These folks were a part of the very culture that misunderstood them which highlights that there was no such cultural confusion involved (in so far as possible with a population of very diverse subcultures).

      It doesn't OK treating citizens from other countries like crap. But it does eliminate one excuse for treating these people this way.

    • by unassimilatible (225662) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:30PM (#26306001) Journal
      All being born in America means to me is that it was more likely this family escalated this incident, rather than remaining calm and going through the indignities we all have to face sooner or later with air travel. I love the US and defend it from the usual haters here, but let's face it; "But I'm an American, you can't do this" is a cliche. Part of it is the freedom we enjoy (yes, relatively, we do, despite the constant barrage of YRO scare stories here). Another part is arrogance and ignorance caused by a lack of travel by the average American. And I do see a change in America in the last decade from "question authority" to "challenge it at every turn." Americans increasingly do not like authority, and I include myself in this.

      One thing working for the legal office of a major city defending police lawsuits taught me is that there are often two sides: That which the media reports, invariably the plaintiff attorney's version (a role I have played as well), versus the rest of the facts that come out once the dust has settled. Often, the potential defendant does not comment to the media for liability reasons, letting the plaintiff side dominate the news cycle.

      If the airline in fact acted as the article portrays, F them. But let's hear all the facts before we call this a vast racially-based evil act by the airline. My experience tells me that sometimes that can take years and a civil trial that ends with a defense verdict before all the facts come to light. And I say this as someone who has sat in a conference room with people literally screaming to tell their side to the media, only to be muzzled by counsel in anticipation of litigation.

      Now once again mod me troll for a well-reasoned, informative post that dares dissent from the racist airline meme du jour.
  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:44PM (#26305419) Homepage Journal
    That should be AirTran, not AirTrans.
  • Discrimination (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:49PM (#26305477) Homepage

    Laissez-faire types will hate me for suggesting this, but this is exactly the sort of thing that should lead to anti-discrimination lawsuits. We make a big deal out of prohibiting racial discrimination in employment and housing, so why not in transportation? It's because Muslims are all terrorists... innit?

    • Re:Discrimination (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:59PM (#26305609)

      Well, Muslim-looking-people are the new "black people" when it comes to profiling. I know what it feels like, being that I'm half black and half white. It's easy for people to shrug it off when it has never happened to them. Dirty looks, being spat on, racial slurs, etc. Fortunatly my experiences turned me into the strong person that I am today.

      Hopefully those of you who are unempathetic will never have the shoe on the other foot.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I know what it feels like, being that I'm half black and half white. It's easy for people to shrug it off when it has never happened to them. Dirty looks, being spat on, racial slurs, etc. Fortunatly my experiences turned me into the strong person that I am today.

        President-Elect Obama? Is that you?

      • Re:Discrimination (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Skye16 (685048) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:13PM (#26305759)

        I donno man, I'm an atheist and had a little old grandma spit on me, too. People can be ignorant savages regardless of skin tone. If you're different than they are with something they identify strongly with, they'll turn on you no matter what.

        Bunch of savages in this town.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:49PM (#26305485)

    ..that the "real terrorists" didn't succeed in their plots to "terrorize" Americans.

  • by Ma8thew (861741) on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:51PM (#26305509)
    I bet the xenophobic idiot who reported their 'suspicious comments' is pleased with themselves, having delayed their flight by 2 hours.
  • Everyone should know (Score:4, Informative)

    by FadedTimes (581715) on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:51PM (#26305517)

    Be careful what you say at airports and on planes. Never get irate or argue at airports and on planes. My mother who is white, has made both mistakes and ran in to similar reactions from airline and airport employees.

  • by Atario (673917) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:04PM (#26305669) Homepage

    I just dread the day terrorists start pulling bombings of buses or trains or truck weigh stations or busy freeways or malls or what-have-you in the US. Because that day, all the stupidity we see in airports and airplanes will be copied into those venues too.

    Unless, of course, we as a people finally pull our heads out instead.

  • Is this legal ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bheading (467684) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:07PM (#26305701)

    I'm reasonably sure in Europe you could be sued if you refused to carry someone based on their religion or racial background - I have a feeling this is true in the US also ? If so, I hope they take this stupid airline to the cleaners. Even setting the obvious discrimination aside, there was no excuse for denying them travel given that the FBI had cleared them.

  • by DTemp (1086779) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:07PM (#26305707)

    Is there any indication if the decision to not let them back on the plane after the FBI okayed them was made by a low or high level employee?

    If some clerk/pilot made the call, then there's no indication it's "systemic" with the airline, and they can be fired and we can see if the problem goes away. However, if a higher-up in AirTran made the decision, there may be a real reason for backlash from the Muslim community (or anyone that disapproves of racism).

    I was born in the 80s so I don't know what the days were like in this country when "blacks" had to sit at the back of the bus, but man this whole anti-muslim thing, while not believed by a majority of Americans, is still prevalent enough for me to not want to be a Muslim living in this country. And a race of people not wanting to live in this country due to prejudice is the opposite of the American Way, and is the opposite path to us maintaining our world strength.

  • by un1xl0ser (575642) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:19PM (#26305849)

    At the end of the day, people got on and made comments they shouldn't have made on the airplane, and other people heard them,

    Other people heard them, misconstrued them. It just so happened these people were of Muslim faith and appearance. It escalated, it got out of hand and everyone took precautions.

    So wait, you can't talk about airport security at the airport? That's all I talk about on the airlines. After hours of waiting, being stripped of liquids for no reason, having to take of your shoes, it kind of is the elephant in the room.

    It seems likely that they were given special attention because of their appearance, accent, culture, et cetera. Personally, I'm not expecting anyone, especially the airline to admit this.

  • Similar story... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KStieers (84864) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:21PM (#26305871)
    Minnesota Public Radio's "The Story" show with Dick Gordon did a piece on Mohamed Fikry, an almost 5 million mile customer with American Airlines... and they pulled the SAME CRAP. Twice! Once because a customer heard him speaking "a foreign language on the phone" (it was Spanish) and once because a flight attendant thought she'd seen him "backstage". 5 Million Miles! with the same airline... And to top it off, they had the FBI pull him from the plane AFTER they flew to the destination! If he were such a threat, why let him fly at ALL... Gotta love airline customer service. Link to the story http://thestory.org/archive/the_story_669_Business_Class_Terrorist.mp3/view [thestory.org]
  • by macraig (621737) <mark.a.craigNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:37PM (#26306111)

    Whether allowing pilots that degree of individual unrestricted discretion is a wise idea or not should probably be debated.

  • by Newer Guy (520108) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:52PM (#26306277)

    First off, this WAS DISCRIMINATION and RACISM!...PERIOD

    Second off, NOTHING that the airlines are doing accounts to a RATS ASS at improving ANY air security. NOT THE TSA, NOT THE FBI, NOT THE AIR MARSHALLS...NOTHING!

    What HAS helped are two things: First the cabin doors are hardened and second, the pilots have to IMMEDIATELY put the plane on the ground in case of ANY hijacking or other problem!

    If these two policies wewre in place on 9/11/2001, both planes from Boston would have landed in Providence or Hartford and NOTHING would have happened to the Trade Center towers! NOTHING would have happened to the Pentagon and the plane that crashed in PA would have landed in Pittsburgh safely.

    The whole thing of 'airline security' is a money wasting bullshit facade-and the people involved take themselves WAY TOO SERIOUSLY!!

  • by bikehorn (1371391) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @01:34AM (#26309199)
    You have such a damn easier time than I do at airports even being a born Canadian. I avoid US travel and airlines now, except when absolutely necessary. One time in Chicago I got thrown in a windowless room for "observation" for four hours because they believed I was on a no fly list. Needless to say I missed my flight, and the connection I was to make after that, and I lost 36 hours in the process. Naturally they acted like releasing me for having done no wrong was equal to doing me a huge favour, which left compensation as a distant dream. It's a shitty time to be young, male and Muslim. Even a liberal, clean-shaven one. My full sympathy is with this family, and if I were them, I'd take advantage of the good ol all-'merican tort system and slap those people with a lawsuit.

    I firmly believe that the type of people who are recruited to fill the positions in American customs and transport security(both TSA and airline staff) are some of the lowest, least human scum available. None of the other countries I've ever traveled to have so consistently hired such uncouth assholes, and this experience is culled from many tens of thousands of kilometers of travel. As a matter of fact, some of those countries actually had people who were *courteous*, that really surprised me considering the duffers I was used to seeing at US border crossings in NY and Michigan state.

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