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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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  • Re:Discrimination (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:57PM (#26305597)

    Why? The airline they went with wound up getting customers they wouldn't have had, and the airline that kicked them off is getting bad publicity and will likely have lost customers along with losing the family as customers in the first place.

    Exactly the way the free market is supposed to work, no need for government intervention or bullshit laws.

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:01PM (#26305641) Homepage Journal
    About a year ago I read about a flight which had to be abandoned because a passenger found the word Bomb written on one of the safety instruction sheets inside the aircraft. I think pretty much any conversation could be misconstrued in that way.
  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:04PM (#26305671) Homepage Journal

    How so? Most registered gun carriers I know completely ignore those signs that say 'no guns'. These are law-abiding citizens.

  • Not always. In many cities, it is illegal to carry firearms into certain places by city ordinance even if you would otherwise be allowed to carry a concealed weapon. Typically these are places such as hospitals, schools and bars.

    On a more on-topic note, I think AirTran deserves a hefty lawsuit. This was very clear cut racism. There was no indication any one of the 9 persons were a threat to anyone. Just a refund doesn't seem to fully compensate them for the harm done.

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

    by thesupraman ( 179040 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:23PM (#26305897)

    Statistically a larger proportion of crime is committed by people with coloured skin, should we treat all such people therefore as criminals?

    Its the same damn thing.

    (and BTW, my answer to the above is 'of course not you idiots' as such statistics mean nothing in relation to intent to commit any crime).

    There is NO excuse for the treatment of these people, what started out as a mistake on the part of airline security was then made many times worse as those same idiots dug in their heals rather than just admit they were wrong.

  • Re:Discrimination (Score:3, Interesting)

    by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:23PM (#26305899) Homepage
    I'm not disagreeing with you that those things should be against the law, but I do have a question for you: in this day and age, how many people do you know that would be willing to patronize a sandwich shop that had a sign like that?
  • 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.

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

    by bishiraver ( 707931 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:28PM (#26305985) Homepage

    Anecdote, arising from said "kick me" signs:

    A friend was on tour with Godspeed! You Black Emperor. They were eating at an IHOP, somewhere in the midwest. Now, Godspeed is kind of an odd band. I don't know if they still do, but they used to squat in an abandoned warehouse up in Quebec. They're peacefully anti-establishment. They dress kind of odd (compared to your typical small-town midwestern family).

    Twenty minutes or so after they sat down to their pancakes and eggs, four county sheriffs show up at the restaurant. They sit down and begin questioning the band about terrorism, if they were terrorists, what they were planning on blowing up / shooting up, et cetera.

    In other words, some small-town hick decided to call the police on a potential terror threat because this band looked a little different than they did.


    ANY "family of nine" is going to seem damn peculiar on an
    airline flight. It doesn't matter if it's the Brady Bunch.

    Even if they're hardline Catholic? Even if they're hard-line southern baptist? There were several families in the PCA (presbyterian church of america) church I group up in who not only believed makeup and jewelry was evil, but also contraceptives. Each family in that (admittedly, small) portion of the congregation had about six or seven kids. Are these families going to raise a few eyebrows? Sure. Should these families be suspected of being terrorists? Hell no. Sure they're weird, sure they're not the norm.

    But neither was the (rather large) family of Hasidic Jews that were aboard my flight from Atlanta to NYC the other day. They dressed different. They had a large family. If their kids were asking which section of the plane was safest, and if they were safe sitting next to the engine, would that have aroused suspicion? I'm guessing not.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:32PM (#26306035)

    So you can be a professional terrorist?

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

    by mabhatter654 ( 561290 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:58PM (#26306369)

    but they were pre-approved by homeland security... then interviewed by the FBI and deemed harmless. The airline should have carried them. period. That's giving into fear and mob mentality, not "patriotism".

    At some point "those people" will start being asses simply to be asses, just to watch the scared little whites squirm. Really think about that.

  • 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....

  • AirTran's fault (Score:3, Interesting)

    by strredwolf ( 532 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:13PM (#26306565) Homepage Journal

    A bit of research through the Consumerist (just bought by Consumers Union, yay!) reveals that AirTran fouling up like this is nothing new [].

  • Re:They got a refund (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NitroWolf ( 72977 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:47PM (#26306989)

    You are conflating prejudice based on race with prejudice based on culture. They're not the same thing, although there's a large amount of overlap. I think prejudice based on culture is slightly more reasonable, although still prone to much error. After all, culture affects behavior much more than race does.

    Different cultures evidently produce terrorists at different rates. That seems factual. The unresolved question seems to be, to what extent is it reasonable and ethical to subject individuals from problematic cultures to greater scrutiny? Not at all? Is there a certain line that shouldn't be crossed? Is increased scrutiny ok, so long as rights aren't violated?

    Fuck, I wish I hadn't already contributed to this article or I'd mod you up. You hit the nail on the head. For the record, it's reasonable and logical to profile based on culture. Our society takes it to the extreme (and beyond) and that is a definite problem. But the underlying idea(l) behind it is sound and perfectly reasonable.

    Don't believe me? Nearly everyone does it every day. Walk down the street in a neighborhood you aren't familiar with or a town/city you aren't familiar with. You will automatically avoid people you are unfamiliar with. You will go to greater lengths to avoid people of a particular type of culture that you know to be problematic - take for example the gang culture. You might casually avoid someone dressed as a redneck - they are prone to problems, but it's minor and usually avoidable or resolvable. You will go to greater lengths to avoid someone dressed in "gang" culture. They are prone to greater problems/more violence and you are less likely to be able to resolve any conflict that arises.

    The same goes for problem cultures from other countries. But - as I said, we go too far a lot of times in the US. You don't ban every redneck who wants to enter a business, just like you don't ban every gang banger who want to enter a business, nor should you overly scrutinize every person from a particular problem culture either. A reasonable level of prudence is required, something the greater population of the US seems to lack in many cases.

  • Re:Mulsim... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:07PM (#26307253) Homepage

    There's a flip side to this: it goes both ways. As the material aspirations in the US start to dry up, now that this insane credit and housing bubble has popped and the manufacturing base is overseas, people will starting "clinging to God and guns" more in the US, whatever their religion is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:44PM (#26307667)

    It was reported that one of them did say something about a "bomb". Also reported that they one of the got irate at the ticket counter. So right now there are two versions of the story and it is a little to early to go around labeling people as racists just because they were doing their job and minimizing the risk in the situation.

    As is the case with most lawsuits, the prosecuting side always gets to talk to the media first and demonize the other side.

    The FBI, who appears to have been a neutral party in the incident characterized the incident as a "misunderstanding", not racisim.

  • Re:Mulsim... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WolfWithoutAClause ( 162946 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:30PM (#26308033) Homepage
    Actually most terrorists, in practice, are can-do middle class people like engineers and doctors. It may be FOR 3rd worlders though, but it's mostly the middle class that actually does it. 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.
  • Re:Airtran Blows (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ckblackm ( 1137057 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:13PM (#26308327)
    Airtran used to be ValuJet... anybody remember them?
  • Simple Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BarefootClown ( 267581 ) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @12:10AM (#26308745) Homepage

    The court could allow the airline's judgment to stand unhindered.

    Then, since the airline is now picking and choosing which passengers it will carry, it loses its common carrier status.

    Sometimes, the best way to change somebody's mind is to give him exactly what he wants.

  • 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.
  • by ericartman ( 955413 ) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @09:19AM (#26311071)

    Two words "Timothy McVeigh" Howcumzit white boys aren't being hassled like people of color? Because America is racist, always has been. If a white family had asked where is the safest place to sit on an aircraft, nothing would have happened. Its easier to persecute people who are different than your brother or sister. Just because things are the way they are doesn't make them right. We change when some people push the norm and make us look at our selves, or we don't, and stop maturing as a society.

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @09:54AM (#26311227) Homepage

    Why do people hate others so easily? Is it the media, the propaganda, what? Just get over it, there are a lot people out there which are different than you but guess what, they mean you no harm. What the fuck is wrong with you people?

    From the quran : "all non-muslims are the filthiest animals on the planet. When one irritates you, do not just kill one, but kill enough, so that they know their place".

    (chapter 8, verse 55 and following).

    This is not an isolated, lonely, out of context verse. The entire book is full of hate. About 2/3rds of the quran is devoted to hate against specific groups, including a few passages that institute hate of people with black skin.

    And people think the bible is bad ... and that muslims should be "tolerated". Tolerating muslims is like "tolerating" Hitler. Not tolerant at all.

  • by Endo13 ( 1000782 ) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @02:56PM (#26313087)

    So based on what has been posted here, the message is "slaughter them till they learn their place, and when they come begging for peace it might be time to stop".

    Yeah, Hitler did that too.

  • by kencurry ( 471519 ) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @03:07PM (#26313181)

    ...To find out, try a thought experiment: what if this discrimination wasn't occurring against people wearing clothing that implied a particular religious faith, but instead that they supported a particular sports team?...

    This already takes place; in no. county San Diego schools, kids cannot wear sports teams apparel. this was the direct result of gang kids wearing [especially] Raiders gear.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay