Delta Airlines has just been fined for, not one, but two cases of discrimination against Muslim passengers. Both of the incidents occurred in 2016 and involved Muslims being kicked off their flights, even after the airline’s own security officials cleared them for travel. On Friday, the US Department of Transportation fined the company $50,000 USD for violating federal anti-bias laws.
The first incident took place in Paris in July 2016. A married Muslim couple was travelling back home to Cincinatti, Ohio, when a fellow passenger reported them to a flight attendant for making her nervous. The complaining passenger was unnerved by the Muslim woman’s headscarf and by her partner playing around with his phone. When the flight attendant passed the Muslim man, she noticed that he was repeatedly texting the word, “Allah”, which led the flight attendant to corroborate the passenger’s suspicions.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The flight’s captain then requested for a Delta supervisor and security officer to interview the couple outside the plane. Delta’s corporate security office confirmed that the couple “raised no red flags” and were cleared to fly, but the captain refused to let them re-board the plane. They ended up flying home the next day. “It appears that but for Mr. and Mrs. X’s perceived religion, Delta would not have removed or denied them re-boarding,” says the consent order released by the Department of Transportation.
The second incident detailed in the order occurred five days later in Amsterdam. As the plane was about to depart for New York, the captain returned to the gate to have a Muslim man removed and the area around his seat searched. While flight attendants and passengers expressed concern about this man, the co-pilot saw nothing unusual and Delta’s security office said his record raised no concern.
“While we understand that our best customer service was not reflected in how the incident was handled, we disagree with the Department of Transportation’s contention that Delta engaged in discriminatory conduct,” said Delta spokeswoman Emma Kate Protis. “For that reason, we have worked to improve our investigative process since these incidents and we have supporting programs, policies, training and procedures that back up our commitments in this area.”