Washington, DC, November 17, 2010—A civil lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that air carrier AirTran Airways intentionally discriminated against nine Muslim passengers by refusing to rebook them on a flight without cause.
In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the plaintiffs – Kashif Irfan and his wife, Inayet Sahin, individually and on behalf of their three minor children; Atif Irfan and his wife, Sobia Ijaz; Summaya Sahin; and Abdul Razak Aziz – asked for a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and compensatory and punitive damages against AirTran Airways and its parent company, AirTran Holdings.
The lawsuit stems from an incident that occurred on January 1, 2009, at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport where the plaintiffs were removed from an AirTran flight to Orlando, FL after other passengers overheard what they thought were inappropriate remarks made by some of the Muslim travelers. After AirTran removed all of the plaintiffs from the flight, the FBI questioned the plaintiffs and cleared them for travel. Nevertheless, AirTran refused to rebook them on another AirTran flight. Consequently, the plaintiffs were forced to purchase tickets from another carrier at an increased cost.
“We want to send a clear message that discrimination will not be tolerated and ensure that others will not have to endure this unfair and embarrassing treatment,” said Michael Kirkpatrick, a lawyer with Public Citizen and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we hope that airlines will be more sensitive when Muslim Americans travel to spend time with family and friends,” said Kashif Irfan.