Last updated: 10:32 AM ET, Thu June 04 2015

United Issues Apology to Muslim Chaplain

Airlines & Airports | United Airlines | Rich Thomaselli | June 04, 2015

United Issues Apology to Muslim Chaplain

United Airlines on Wednesday formally apologized to Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim chaplain and director of interfaith engagement at Northwestern University, who said she received discriminatory treatment on one of the airline’s regional carriers.

As TravelPulse wrote on Sunday, Ahmad, 31, was flying from Chicago to Washington for a conference encouraging dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian youth. She was wearing the traditional headscarf, or hijab.

For sanitary reasons, she requested an unopened can of soda. The flight attendant said she could not give her one, but then gave an unopened can of beer to another passenger. Ahmad questioned the flight attendant after seeing this.

"We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a weapon on the plane," she said the flight attendant told her.

When Ahmad asserted that she was being subject to discrimination, the attendant abruptly opened the beer can.

"It's so you don't use it as a weapon," was the reply, Ahmad said.

The incident happened aboard a Shuttle America flight.

In a statement, United said: “While United did not operate the flight, Ms. Ahmad was our customer and we apologize to her for what occurred on the flight. After investigating this matter, United has ensured that the flight attendant, a Shuttle America employee, will no longer serve United customers. United does not tolerate behavior that is discriminatory – or that appears to be discriminatory – against our customers or employees.”

In a Facebook post, Ahmad wrote that when she asked other fliers if they had seen what happened, one man yelled, "You Muslim, you need to shut the f--- up.”

"What?" she asked.

The man leaned over, looked her in the eyes and said: "Yes, you know you would use it as a weapon. So shut the f--- up," according to Ahmad.

"I felt the hate in his voice and his raging eyes," she wrote on Facebook while still in the air. "I can't help but cry ... because I thought people would defend me and say something. Some people just shook their heads in dismay."

Social media users were attempting to put together a boycott on Monday using the hashtag #UnitedForTahera.

“All of United’s customer-facing employees undergo annual and recurrent customer service training, which includes lessons in cultural awareness,” United added in its statement. “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.”

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