For those who believe we are becoming a nation of cringing morons, AirTran has supplied a wonderful case in point. A family was boarding a flight to Orlando, Florida and discussing where is the safest place to sit on a plane. It is a fairly common topic on planes but this family was Muslim and the passengers became alarmed. The family of Atif Irfan was removed from the plane and, even after the FBI cleared them and told the airline that the airline should let them fly, AirTran refused to rebook them. So much for the airline motto: “Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You.” Expect possibly your religion.
Airtran has now offered the family a full refund and invited them to family AirTran on their next trip — it is not clear if the tickets come with standard humiliation and detention. Presumably they will be asked not to discuss air safety, aerodynamics, the air industry, or the Wright Brothers. . . unless of course they convert.
AirTran insists that it “complied with all TSA, law enforcement and Homeland Security directives and had no discretion in the matter.” No discretion? This would suggest that any loony objection from any half-wit makes ejection of eight passenger mandatory. Does this mean that AirTran has no choice but to eject a group of evangelical ministers on a flight when I object that they are discussing the “end of times”?
[UPDATE: after defending its actions for two days, AirTran has now issued an apology.]
Irfan said that the airline told them never to fly AirTran again and refused requests from the FBI to allow them to fly.
He said that they were simply walking to their seat and talking “about where the safest place in an airplane is. We were (discussing whether it was safest to sit near) the wing, or the engine or the back or the front, but that’s it. We didn’t say anything else that would raise any suspicion.”
Of course, it is a bit unclear why they would be discussing the safest seat if they were planning to explode the plane. Not many suicide bombers work the margins in the hope of surviving a midair explosion and plunge to the sea.
There is talk of a lawsuit and there is certainly a good basis for one. While I do not fly AirTran, it would be comforting if the airline was more intelligent than the lowest common denominator on the flight. This case does not give one much faith in the intellect of the airline crew or company (like finding a note in the cockpit reading “do not hit other shiny things in the sky).
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