United Airlines has apologised to a Muslim woman who was denied an unopened can of diet coke on a flight and sacked the flight attendant who refused to serve her.
Tahera Ahmed, a Muslim chaplain at Chicago’s Northwestern University, said she faced Islamophobia from the flight attendant and fellow passengers in an incident which went viral on social media.
In a statement United Airlines said although “United did not operate the flight, Ms. Ahmad was our customer and we apologize to her for what occurred on the flight.
“After investigating this matter, United has ensured that the flight attendant, a Shuttle America employee, will no longer serve United customers. United does not tolerate behavior that is discriminatory – or that appears to be discriminatory – against our customers or employees.
“All of United’s customer-facing employees undergo annual and recurrent customer service training, which includes lessons in cultural awareness.
“Customer-facing employees for Shuttle America also undergo cultural sensitivity training, and United will continue to work with all of our partners to deliver service that reflects United’s commitment to cultural awareness.”
After the flight last week Ahmed wrote a Facebook status which quickly went viral.
She said: “I am sitting on a United airlines flight in the air 30,000ft above and I am in tears of humiliation from discrimination. The flight attendant asked me what I would like to drink and I requested a can of diet coke. She brought me a can that was open so I requested an unopened can due to hygienic reasons.
“She said no one has consumed from the drink, but I requested an unopened can. She responded, ‘Well I’m sorry I just can’t give you an unopened can so no diet coke for you.’
“She then brought the man sitting next to me a can of UNOPENED beer. So I asked her again why she refused to give me an UNOPENED can of diet coke. She said, ‘We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a WEAPON on the plane.’
“So I told her that she was clearly discriminating against me because she gave the man next to me an unopened can of beer. She looked at his can, quickly grabbed it and opened it and said, ‘it’s so you don’t use it as a weapon.’
“Appauled at her behavior I asked people around me if they witnessed this discriminatory and disgusting behavior and the man sitting in an aisle across from me yelled out to me, ‘you Moslem, you need to shut the F** up.’
“I said, ‘what?!’ He then leaned over from his seat, looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘yes you know you would use it as a WEAPON so shut the f**k up.’ I felt the hate in his voice and his raging eyes. I can’t help but cry on this plane because I thought people would defend me and say something. Some people just shook their heads in dismay”