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."
This article originally appeared on the Chicago Sun Times