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Overzealous AirTran Boots 9 Passengers Off 1002

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 []

  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <> on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:44PM (#26305419) Homepage Journal
    That should be AirTran, not AirTrans.
  • 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.

  • Re:"bomb" (Score:5, Informative)

    by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:00PM (#26305631)

    Actually, you misread. The article at CNN explicitly stated: "The conversation did not contain the words "bomb," "explosion," "terror" or other words that might have aroused suspicion, Atif Irfan said."
    See linky: []

    Not to mention that merely saying the word bomb and attack is not cause for concern. Are we really less capable than the various chat bots for understanding context?

  • by rcw-home ( 122017 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:04PM (#26305667)

    Be careful what you say at airports and on planes. Never get irate or argue at airports and on planes.

    That's correct. In fact, it's important to remember the cardinal rule of the airline business: The customer is always wrong.

  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:05PM (#26305683) Journal

    The airline already apologized, refunded the money, and paid for the other flight the family took that trip. Just get over it.

    The article does not say that the airline paid for the other flight. It says that the airline offered to pay for the other flight. I'm guessing that the offer requires the family to release the airline of all liability.

    Also, other reports stated that the airline was refusing to pay the family's extra cost of taking the other flight, which implies that the offer only came after this became a national news issue. In other words, the offer of a refund only came about because people did not get over it.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:54PM (#26306313)

    AirTran would have called the authorities to report the incident. If they don't get an "all clear" back, then normal CYA procedure would dictate that they don't let the people fly.

    You must have missed the bit where AirTran refused to seat them even after the FBI cleared them.

    "The FBI agents actually cleared our names," said Inayet Sahin, Irfan's sister-in-law. "They went on our behalf and spoke to the airlines and said, 'There is no suspicious activity here. They are clear. Please let them get on a flight so they can go on their vacation,' and they still refused."

    Source []

  • Re:Discrimination (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <chyeld&gmail,com> on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:01PM (#26306395)

    I've not read a more ignorant, mis-informed, and downright stupid account of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, than yours.

    It did not end because the free market got tired of losing money. It ended because the Federal Government came in (in the form of the Supreme Court) and smacked them upside the head. Said:"Idiots, we already told you to stop that, do it. Now!"

    There had been two previous cases where someone did the exact same thing as Rosa Parks and the legal decision had been in their favor.

    What the 'free' market did was attempt to use the civic governments to crack down on the boycott. They tried to force insurance companys to drop the policies of the folk carpooling. They attempted to fine the taxi drivers who were charging fares the same amount as the normal bus fare. They then firebombed two people's houses (including MLK's) and four black churches. They physically attacked the boycotters.

    Not ONCE did they say "Oh dear, we are losing money, we should stop this crazy thing and act like human beings"

  • by RightSaidFred99 ( 874576 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:03PM (#26306425)
    It only makes them trespassers if they are asked to leave and they don't. It would be like a sign reading "boxers only: no brief wearers allowed". Easily ignored. If they then ask you to leave, then you have to leave.
  • by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:26PM (#26306741)
    The airline already apologized, refunded the money, and paid for the other flight the family took that trip.

    ...which is precisely what the airline is required to do by the denied-boarding rules. These rules were meant to deal with overbooked flights, but since the FBI cleared the family, I doubt the airline would have much of a leg to stand on if they tried to refuse payment.


  • Re:They got a refund (Score:3, Informative)

    by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:35PM (#26306831)
    OK, I just did the experiment. I'm a middle-aged white male, with a large backpack in O'Hare airport. I just made a cell call to a friend discussing the Air-tran incident, and using the words "terrorist", "bomb" and explosion. I said that no sensible terrorist is going to talk about blowing up a plane they are actually about to destroy. I made this call in front of 4 flight-attendants on my flight. So far no one has bothered me.
  • Close, but no cigar. (Score:2, Informative)

    by at.splat ( 775901 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:53PM (#26307077)

    For posterity: Then named Godspeed You Black Emperor!, they were in Ardmore, Oklahoma [] in March, 2003, and got hassled at a gas station, not while eating pancakes at IHOP. They had just finished playing a (great) show at Ridglea Theater in Dallas with Bardo Pond [], and were en route to St. Louis.

    Wikipedia has a concise summary [], and notes that the ordeal was also mentioned in Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country?

  • by wronskyMan ( 676763 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:23PM (#26307433)
    IANAL, but typically, no. For example, if you were in a movie theater that says "no food or drink", and the usher saw you with a candy bar, he could ask you to throw it out or in the extreme ask you to leave, as it is his (the company's) property. If you then refused to leave you could be arrested for trespassing. If you were kicked out for having the candy bar and given a notice banning you from the property (stores often do this with shoplifters, for example), you could be arrested on sight if you return at a later date. You could also be arrested for trespass for entering a clearly closed theater without explicit permission. In some states businesses with the approved "no-carry" sign are written into the concealed carry laws as locations prohibited to carry (ie carrying there will get you a misdemeanor ticket for vio of the CCW law). In states without this provision it is the simple law of trespass that the owners have available; you are only in violation if discovered, asked to leave, and you refuse to do so.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:20PM (#26307973)

    I remember a real life documentary on the BBC, where an older gentleman was bringing an expensive violin back for a family friend.

    Sitting in the airport lounge, waiting for his flight, part of his conversation was overheard by another waiting passenger ~ he'd remarked that the violin case looked like one gangsters used to use in the olden days.

    Two armed police officers detained him, questioned him, kept him overnight and let him continue his journey the following day with a warning.

  • Re:Discrimination (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:37PM (#26308093) Journal

    According to Wikipedia "Black taxi drivers charged ten cents per ride, a fare equal to the cost to ride the bus, in support of the boycott. When word of this reached city officials on December 8, 1955, the order went out to fine any cab driver who charged a rider less than 45 cents."

    So the market tried to solve the problem, but they were over-regulated!

  • Re:Discrimination (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:01PM (#26308263) Journal

    Actually I beg to differ. I would say they acted exactly like human beings. Probably the main reason a completely free market will fail.

    They were acting like human beings in an over-regulated market. Montgomery City Lines were following the law, and risking conviction if they did not, Title 48, 301(31a, b, c), Code of Alabama of 1940:

    " 301(31a). Separate accommodations for white and colored races. -- All passenger stations in this state operated by any motor transportation company shall have separate waiting rooms or space and separate ticket windows for the white and colored races, but such accommodations for the races shall be equal. All motor transportation companies or operators of vehicles carrying passengers for hire in this state, whether intrastate or interstate passengers, shall at all times provide equal but separate accommodations on each vehicle for the white and colored races. The conductor or agent of the motor transportation company in charge of any vehicle is authorized and required to assign each passenger to the division of the vehicle designated for the race to which the passenger belongs; and, if the passenger refuses to occupy the division to which he is assigned, the conductor or agent may refuse to carry the passenger on the vehicle; and, for such refusal, neither the conductor or agent of the motor transportation company nor the motor transportation company shall be liable in damages. Any motor transportation company or person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars for each offense; and each day's violation of this section shall constitute a separate offense."

    This was eventually found to be unconstitutional in Browder v. Gayle 142 F. Supp. 707 (1956).

  • by a whoabot ( 706122 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:23PM (#26308409)

    "The fact that you ignorant asshats refuse to wake up from your delusional world of hate and bigotry, and perhaps read why people hate the US instead of believing the line "because we're not muslim" is why we've had muslim terrorist attacks on this country and its consulates. Look up the term blowback."

    So American consulates were attacked by muslim extremists because of blowback. Why were Danish consulates attacked by muslim extremists? Blowback as well? Making political caricature cartoons is an act of war now?

    Why was Theo van Gogh killed by a muslim extremist?

    Since you might be Canadian(inferring from GYBE! mention), maybe you'll appreciate this one. Why was Tarek Fateh attacked by muslim extremists? Being an apostate from Islam in an act of war now?

    My opinion is that there are plenty of muslim extremists who do use violence on people pretty much just "because [they're] not muslim."

    If you read Sayyid Qutb's Milestones, which at least Wikipedia, citing something, calls a "major influence" on Islamic terrorism, there is this message that violence should be used to destroy non-muslim institutions which output vulgarities like pornography, blasphemy, and other haram things.

    From Milestones []:
    "But any place where the Islamic Shari'ah is not enforced and where Islam is not dominant becomes the home of Hostility (Dar-ul-Harb) for both the Muslim and the Dhimmi. A Muslim will remain prepared to fight against it, whether it be his birthplace or a place where his relatives reside or where his property or any other material interests are located.
    And thus Muhammad - peace be on him - fought against the city of Mecca, although it was his birthplace, and his relatives lived there, and he and his Companions had houses and property there which they had left when they migrated; yet the soil of Mecca did not become Dar-ul-Islam for him and his followers until it surrendered to Islam and the Shari'ah became operative in it."

    I would say that such an interpretation of Islam is basically the same for Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups: Use any means necessary to establish the rule of God.

  • by jmpeax ( 936370 ) * on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:26PM (#26308441)

    "muslim" is exactly as much a race as "white" or "black".

    That's not correct at all. A Muslim is someone who adheres to Islam. Islam is a religion. Religion is an idea.

    Race, on the other hand, is a way of categorising people by their physical traits, such as skin colour. The two things are very different, and people who subscribe to religion should be no more immune to criticism, ridicule etc. than any other person in a society that values free speech.

    To put it simply, hating someone because their clothes imply they may think a certain way is stupid, but it isn't racist.

  • Re:They got a refund (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:29PM (#26308467) Journal

    Out of curiosity, what has been the ethnicity of the majority of airplane hijackers in the US over the past 40 years or so?

    Muslims - but between 1968 and 2008 there have been the following types of airplane hijackers as well: Sikhs, Chinese, Japanese, Philippine, German, Croatian, Russian, Ethiopian (not sure if muslim), American, and Czech (according to Wikipedia).

    For example, in 1994, FedEx Flight 705 hijacked by disgruntled employee Auburn Calloway as it left Memphis, Tennessee, with the intention of using it as a cruise missile against FedEx HQ. He was subdued by the flight crew before an emergency landing back at Memphis.

  • Re:They got a refund (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:30PM (#26308473)

    You link to a 13-year-old event, which itself is an outlier when measured by any standard.

    I call bullshit.

    9/11 was 8 years ago, whens the last time a 747 hit a major landmark since then?

    Oh would that be... NEVER?.

    You see where I'm going with that?

    As a country America has a far richer history of violence from its own citizenry directed against the government than any outside groups. And thats without including the civil war.

  • Re:They got a refund (Score:2, Informative)

    by rockstar1o9 ( 951700 ) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @12:20AM (#26308809)
    I don't think it was so much the Muslim background as it was the poor choice of location and conversation topic. If I was at the airport and I overheard a white family having a similar conversation, I'd probably report it too and I'd be surprised if things didn't play out the same way. With that said, profiling, racial, and even gender differences are a way of life, whether of not we would like them to be. We shouldn't just cite racism every time and throw common sense out the window. This family should not have been having this conversation in the middle of an airport. A dark-skinned man should not j-walk in the evening if he's wearing dark colored clothes because he'll be hard to see. Women should not walk around at night by themselves in the sketchy parts of town. Common sense first people!
  • by Shadyman ( 939863 ) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @12:24AM (#26308851) Homepage
    "AirTran apologizes for removing Muslim passengers":

    AirTran Airways apologized Friday to nine Muslims kicked off a New Year's Day flight to Florida after other passengers reported hearing a suspicious remark about airplane security. One of the passengers said the confusion started at Reagan National Airport just outside Washington, D.C., when he talked about the safest place to sit on an airplane. Orlando, Fla.-based AirTran said in a statement that it refunded the passengers' air fare and planned to reimburse them for replacement tickets they bought on US Airways. AirTran also offered to take the passengers back to Washington free of charge. "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," the statement said. "Nobody on Flight 175 reached their destination on time on New Year's Day, and we regret it."

    As reported by the Associated Press (via (via []

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @02:52AM (#26309589) Journal
    WTC in 1992. WTC in 2001. Richard C. Reid in 2002. And these are just a few
    No, from a statistic POV (i.e. profiling), muslims are a MUCH BIGGER threat.
  • Re:Mulsim... (Score:5, Informative)

    by egor045 ( 998609 ) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:00AM (#26310371)

    As I understand it, the Irish problem largely went away with 9/11. Suddenly a lot of "well meaning" (?) Irish Americans sympathetic to terrorism discovered that ... um ... terrorism is bad, and funding ceased.

    I'm assuming that the specific Irish problem you refer to is the IRA (and others) campaign to reunite Northern Ireland with the rest of Ireland. We do have other issues ...

    9/11 had nothing to do with the IRA's cessation of hostilities: they realised a long time ago that violence wasn't going to achieve their objectives and decided to take the democratic route. I am in no way a fan of the IRA or Sinn Fein (their political wing), but I give them credit for realising that democracy and negotiation was the way to go.

    UK border installations (watch towers, armoured checkpoints on roads) were being dismantled in the early 1990s. I remember crossing the border in 1987 or thereabouts and seeing bunkers and machine gun posts. 5 years later, no installations at all.

  • Re:They got a refund (Score:3, Informative)

    by hjf ( 703092 ) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @10:51PM (#26316503) Homepage

    actually not even civilian Argentines are welcome there. not even the relatives of the dead soldiers that want to come to visit the graves. the people from the islands made such a big fuss about the argentine relatives showing an argentine flag at the cemetery... I don't think they even allow flights from Argentina, only from Chile

  • Re:They got a refund (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 04, 2009 @06:58AM (#26318903)

    I am picturing a man, because I am a heterosexual woman. You'd might be surprised at how many of us exist in the world. In fact, females own a simple majority of the population. We even *gasp* exist on slashdot.

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