Unchanged Prejudices

Nine (9) passengers -- two men and their families, and the sister-in-law of one of the men -- were removed from a plane at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, VA, when one man and his wife discussed aloud the safest place to sit on an airplane.

One of them had commented that the jets on the plane were right next to his window.

The airline refused to re-book them, even after the FBI was called in and determined that the incident was due to a misunderstanding.

A few relevant details:

  • One brother, 34 years old, is an anesthesiologist. 
  • The other brother, 29, is a lawyer.

Image was an entry to a PhotoShop contest on the site Worth1000.

Those points alone should bring them under suspicion, no?  After all, a lawyer teamed with an anesthesiologist could painlessly fleece a plane full of passengers and the airline.  But perhaps that isn't enough -- after all, how many times have you had discussions (yes, even since 9-11) about where the safest place to sit on airplane was? 


Both brothers grew up in Detroit (so therefore they must be guilty of something, right?) and live in Alexandria with their families.  They were traveling to Orlando, Florida.  ...somehow, I'm still not getting the reason for tossing the family.

From the initial WaPo article detailing the incident:


AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson agreed that the incident amounted to a misunderstanding. But he defended AirTran's handling of the incident, which he said strictly followed federal rules. And he denied any wrongdoing on the airline's part.


Hutcheson said AirTran is not likely to reimburse the passengers for the additional cost of their replacement tickets on USAirways. He said they were given a full refund for their AirTran fares and may fly on the carrier now that the investigation is complete.

The detained passengers said that is not likely.

Yeah, "not likely" is perhaps a milder form of the terminology I'd use.

Oh, I did leave out one minor fact -- a pittance, not likely to be of any significance:

"five of the six adults in the party are of South Asian descent, and all six are traditionally Muslim in appearance, with the men wearing beards and the women in headscarves"

Yes, they were Muslim. All but one of them were US-born citizens.

Do you think that had anything to do with it?

It's not like this would impede freedom of speech, or amount to racial profiling, or be the result of eight years of stoking the flames of divisive racial and social prejudices. Such a thing has no place in the U.S., and no effect on civil rights in this land of the free and home of the brave, right? It's not like we'd ever simply rounded up members of a particular national descent or would ever suggest such a thing again...

For the record, there's a somewhat interesting piece at History News Network by Daniel Pipes, who was appointed to the U.S. Institute of Peace by President George W. Bush on April 1, 2003. In the piece, Pipes rails against accusations that he wanted to round up people of Islamic faith and put then into concentration camps a la the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. While Mr. Pipes had apparently stated no such thing, his piece does make a rather disturbing admission. Several, in fact:

And so it was that I was asked in April 2003 if I condoned the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. I avoided the question, saying I lacked the knowledge to reply.

My curiosity was roused, though, so I read Michelle Malkin's book, In Defense of Internment (Regnery) and wrote about it in late 2004, concluding that given what was known (and not known) in the early 1940s, FDR's internment decision was "correct and sensible."

Juan Cole of the University of Michigan seized upon this assessment and distorted it, alleging that I have "fond visions of rounding up Muslim Americans and putting them in concentration camps." To this inaccuracy, I immediately replied: "I am not calling for the internment of Muslims. I am calling for an ideological war on radical Islam and the understanding that Islamists are our enemy. I see anti-Islamist Muslims as critical to the war on radical Islam and far from wanting them interned, see their active participation as critical to winning the conflict."

Emphasis mine.

First off, Malkin -- Michelle Malkin -- as a source?

And internment was "correct and sensible"?

Finally, what the hell is "an ideological war on radical Islam"...? Kudos for saying that he sees "anti-Islamist Muslims as critical to the war on radical Islam" and that he'd like their active participation rather than internment, but I can see why folks like Juan Cole and others were a tad concerned.

In any event -- We've just turned the corner in the calendar, but how far have we come in terms of easing the burdens placed upon us by fear-mongering based upon racial, social and religious differences?

Are we heading toward a greater degree of understanding and tolerance, finally stepping into the 21st Century after the brief 8-year detour back into the 1950s, or will Change in that regard have to wait until the incoming Administration has finished cleaning up the major disasters left by the incompetent, criminally corrupt Administration that is soon to depart?

No votes yet


Washington Post has a story, on this.

AirTran Airways has issued a public apology and provided free return airfare to nine Muslim passengers who were forced off an AirTran flight to Orlando at Reagan National Airport yesterday after two other passengers overheard what they construed as threatening remarks.

The affair still has a ntoiceably bad smell.

Hutcheson said yesterday that it was ultimately the pilot's decision to postpone the flight. But he said the pilot was influenced not only by the complaints from passengers but by the actions of two federal air marshals on board, who had learned of the incident and reported it to airport police.

As a result of the report about the conversation, federal officials made the decision to order all 104 passengers from the plane and re-screen them and their luggage before finally taking allowing the flight to take off for Orlando -- two hours late and without the nine passengers.

Ellen Howe, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, said the pilot acted appropriately.

"For us, it just highlights that security is everybody's responsibility," Howe said. "Someone heard something that was inappropriate, and then the airline decided to act on it. We certainly support [the pilot's] his call to do that."

Atif Irfan said he was glad for the apology but said the group was still discussing whether to accept AirTran's offer of a refund and free travel.

"They are being very conciliatory," he said.


bad publicity and potentially some lawsuits, founded or unfounded as the case may be.

Since the FBI helped the family get onto a US Airlines flight, I'm presuming they didn't have any issues with the families, and that makes the AirTran folks look a bit dicier for their policies.

It was not the pilot's initiative to throw them off but an on-the-ground gov. security office of some sort, located at the airport. Somehow they received the complaint too and "advised" the captain of the plane ;who is the one with the say that it was their judgement the people should be thrown off the plane.