American carrier Delta Air Lines has launched an investigation after a Muslim-American couple alleged that they were removed from a flight over their appearance. The couple from Ohio said they felt "humiliated" for being treated like "criminals".
The incident took place on 26 July when Faisal and Nazia Ali, originally from Pakistan, boarded their flight from Paris to Cincinnati, Ohio, to return home after spending a few days in London and Paris to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.
Nazia said they faced no troubles boarding the flight, but one of the flight attendant's allegedly complained to the pilot that she was uncomfortable with their presence on the flight. The crew member also allegedly told the pilot that the woman was wearing the traditional Muslim headscarf and that the man was "sweating" and saying "Allah". The pilot, then, contacted the ground staff and got the couple removed from the flight.
Following the incident, which is a repeat of similar incidences in the recent past, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Cincinnati) has called on the US government and major airlines operators to revisit their official guidelines that allow them to de-plane passengers over their appearance.
"We call on the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct a thorough examination into the prevailing practices of major American air carriers, including Delta Air Lines, and to develop policy guidelines on the objective factors that are to be considered when determining that a passenger may legally be removed from a flight," CAIR-Cincinnati attorney Sana Hassan was quoted as saying by Fox News.
Meanwhile, Delta did not comment on whether it would amend its existing policies to prevent such incidents, but only said that it is conducting a probe into the racial profiling case. "Delta condemns discrimination toward our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or gender," the air carrier said in the Thursday (4 August) statement.
"As a global airline that brings hundreds of thousands of people together every day, Delta is deeply committed to treating all of our customers with respect. Delta continues its investigation into this matter and will issue a full refund of these customers' airfare," it added.
The Ohio couple also alleged that after being taken off the plane, they were questioned roughly by the French officials. "It was humiliating. We were treated like criminals. I thought, 'We are American citizens. You can't do this to us.'" Nazia reportedly said.
Later, the couple was rebooked on another Delta flight the following day, with the airline arranging for their night stay at a hotel near the airport. The airlines also said that they will fully reimburse the couple's airfare for the 26 July flight from Paris to Cincinnati, Fox News reported.