Nine Muslim American passengers from the Washington area sued AirTran Airways in federal court Wednesday, alleging that the airline discriminated against them by removing them from a Jan. 1, 2009, flight out of Reagan National Airport and refusing to rebook them.
“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, brothers Kashif Irfan of Alexandria and Atif Irfan of Rockville; their families; and a friend, Abdul Razak Aziz of the District.
“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.
The lawsuit alleges that two teenaged girls seated nearby mistook an innocuous comment by the group about safety at the rear of the airplane as a threat. The suit claims that AirTran refused to rebook the group even after FBI investigators cleared them to travel.