United apologises to Muslim woman for soda incident, bans accused crew member

United Airlines issues apology after Northwestern University president termed a previous apology insufficient


Web Desk June 03, 2015
PHOTO: AFP

CHICAGO: United Airlines on Thursday said the flight attendant who allegedly denied a Muslim woman an unopened can of soda will no longer serve customers on their planes, while also officially apologising for the incident. 

The apology came after Northwestern University’s president demanded a more open-ended apology from United Airways, terming the previous one as ‘insufficient’.

“The extraordinarily unprofessional and humiliating treatment of one of our community members is shockingly disappointing,” Northwestern’s president Morton Schapiro, said in a statement released on Monday. “I understand that the flight attendant and pilot both later apologised to Chaplain [Tahera] Ahmad. While that is a first step, it should not be the last.”

Later on Wednesday, United Airways issued a statement that read:

“While United did not operate the flight, Ms. Ahmad was our customer and we apologise to her for what occurred on the flight.”

It added that the steward, a Shuttle America employee, will not serve United Airlines customers again.

"United does not tolerate behavior that is discriminatory – or that appears to be discriminatory - against our customers or employees."

The airlines added that its employees, especially those dealing with customers, undergo cultural sensitivity training.

"All of United’s customer-facing employees undergo annual and recurrent customer service training, which includes lessons in cultural awareness. Customer-facing employees for Shuttle America also undergo cultural sensitivity training, and United will continue to work with all of our partners to deliver service that reflects United’s commitment to cultural awareness."

Discriminated at 30,000 feet

Ahmad, in a Facebook post on May 29 detailed the incident.

The chaplain was on a United flight, operated by Shuttle America, headed from Chicago to Washington DC. She asked a flight attendant if she could have an unopened can of soda, rather than the opened one she’d been given. The flight attendant replied, according to Ahmad, that it was against company policy to hand out unopened cans — because they might be used as weapons.

When another passenger was provided an unopened can, Ahmad protested what was discrimination. Instead of others backing her, Ahmad claimed that one passenger got up and told her, “You Muslim, you need to shut the f*** up.”

“Ahmad should receive a more formal apology from United, along with assurances that United will train staff so that she, and others, are never again subjected to such discrimination on a United flight,” the university’s president had demanded.

On May 31, Ahmad had said that the initial apology offered by the flight crew and subsequent contact by the airlines was not sufficient.

"Unfortunately United has dismissed my entire narrative and trivialized it to a can of soda. As a Premier frequent flyer at United, I have been served unopened canned beverages many times and I have followed United procedures in all of my travels. It is ridiculing to my integrity to dismiss the discrimatory behavior towards me."

She added that it was not her intention to have the flight attendant, but the airlines did so anyways.

"I want to make it very clear to the public that my intentions are NOT to get the flight attendant who behaved very rudely towards me fired. I simply did not expect United Airlines to dismiss the unwarranted and unfortunate rude behavior, discrimination and hateful words but rather acknowledge their accountability and role in the painful experience and share corrective measures within their training to prevent this from happening again regardless of their race, religion, gender, sex, or socioeconomic background."

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This article originally appeared on the Chicago Sun Times

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COMMENTS (39)

Harris | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend @Tariq. Absolutely agreed. I am certain Islamophobia will increase in US,France, Britain, etc. Muslims who are there must think about that and plan accordingly. I'd advice that they leave these hostile places and move elsewhere.
Sarah | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend Discrimination is wrong, to anyone. I am tired of reading comments that seperate the United States and Muslims. I am an American. I was born and baptized Catholic, later in my life I was sent to the Methodist church, and while in foster care attended a Pentecostal church. Today, I am a Muslim, but I have always been an American. I recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the National Anthem each morning at school, and I am a peaceful individual who has a family and is just trying to live my life. Let's learn from the mistakes our Ancestors made, don't allow the hatred for others to consume you. Embrace everyone, view others as you want to be viewed. Our nation would be so much stronger if we put the hate on hold. The groups in the world calling themselves Muslim, like ISIS, are not Muslim. They are cowards who need something to hide behind. Islam is all about peace. Every holy book can be taken out of context, and every religion has individuals who do that, otherwise there would be no Waco or Warren Jeff's in our world. Look beyond those crazy individuals, look for hope. Hope that all Americans can join together and stand strong, no matter thier religion or lack of religion, united against a common enemy. That enemy is not a religion, it is not Islam, but rather those twisted individuals who view freedom as wrong.
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