Action Alert: AirTran Is Not Your Friend (Updated)

AirTran, the arline that had to change its name because it had too many high-profile crashes under the name ValuJet, is still not very good at keeping you safe:

A day after a Muslim family was removed from a flight at Reagan National Airport near Washington, officials of AirTran Airways and the family stood their ground Friday, each accusing the other of misconduct. Kashif Irfan, left, and his brother Atif Irfan were among family members removed from the flight Thursday. The families of Atif Irfan, a tax attorney, and his brother Kashif Irfan, an anesthesiologist, were removed from a flight before takeoff Thursday after a passenger reported hearing Atif Irfan's wife say something the passenger thought was suspicious. The airline declined to say what comment was overheard. But Atif Irfan say the couple was discussing the safest place to sit on a plane and speculates that someone misconstrued their intent. Family members Friday said they are particularly concerned about AirTran's actions after they were removed from the flight. AirTran refused to rebook the family on a subsequent flight, even after FBI agents cleared them of wrongdoing and intervened on their behalf, the Irfans said. "The FBI agents actually cleared our names," said Inayet Sahin, Kashif Irfan's wife. "And they went on our behalf and spoke to the airlines and said, 'There is no suspicious activity here. They are clear. Please let them get on a flight so they can go on their vacation,' and they still refused."

That's CNN.com's version.  AirTran's version is below the fold. You can ask for CEO Robert Fornaro at their corporate headquarters at 1-800-965-2107 and tell him that anti-Muslim discrimination is wrong and illegal, or whatever message you think is appropriate.   You can also e-mail an AirTran "Corporate Complaint Resolution Officer" at ccro@airtranweb.com or use their  general customer service contact form here.  FInally, You can call a CCRO at the number above, extension 6042. If anyone is in touch with the people involved, please let them know they can contact me at dr [DOT] anonymous [AT] passtheroti [DOT] com to make sure  that the messaging reflects what they want.  If anyone finds Fornaro's e-mail address, please do let me know.  As an FYI, all anti-Muslim messages in the comments will be deleted. Thanks. [Update: please note newly boldfaced sentence above- this has been and will continue to be enforced to the best of my ability - Dr. A].

ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 2 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of AirTran Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AAI), today issued the following statement regarding AirTran flight 175 originating at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on January 1, 2009. At departure time, the Captain of flight 175 informed the airline that there were two federal air marshals onboard who contacted local and federal Washington law enforcement officials for a security related issue onboard the aircraft involving verbal comments made by a passenger and overheard by other passengers. The airline then advised the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It was determined that all 104 passengers onboard must deplane and passengers, crew, baggage and the aircraft should be re-screened. After the re-screening of the passengers, crew, bags and the aircraft, 95 passengers were allowed to reboard the aircraft and nine were detained for interrogation by the local law enforcement officials, the FBI and the TSA. Flight 175 departed nearly two hours late and arrived safely at its destination. Later in the day, six of the nine detained passengers approached the customer service counter and asked to be rebooked to Orlando. At the time, the airline had not been notified by the authorities that the passengers were cleared to fly and would not rebook them until receiving said clearance. One passenger in the party became irate and made inappropriate comments. The local law enforcement officials came over and escorted the passengers away from the gate podium. AirTran Airways complied with all TSA, law enforcement and Homeland Security directives and had no discretion in the matter. The nine passengers involved were all offered full refunds and may fly with AirTran Airways again after having been released from questioning and cleared by the law enforcement officials.

Summary: 
AirTran, the arline that had to change its name because it had too many high-profile crashes under the name ValuJet, is still not very good at keeping you safe.

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Comments

I think that everyone,

I think that everyone, irrespective of their ethnicity or religion should be a little more guarded as to the sort of comments they make or conversations they have at an airport or in an airplane. It is strange that even the wife of one of the brothers said the following "When we were talking, when we turned around, I noticed a couple of girls kind of snapped their heads...I kind of thought to myself, 'Oh, you know, maybe they're going to say something.' It didn't occur to me that they were going to make it such a big issue." Well, it did become a big issue primarily due to the words she uttered regarding the safest place in a plane. Who discusses such a thing or asks such a question anyway while aboard an aircraft? Believe me, I'd be alarmed as well even if these words were spoken by a caucasian. All this being said, the airline should have rebooked them after they were cleared by the FBI.

Airline pilots and managers

Airline pilots and managers are generally idiots about customer service. If they could just learn how to speak with passengers, they would have defused this before it became a PR problem. Get over 9/11. Have common sense. Don't we know have all the TSA security that we need and are paying billions of dollars for? America is a screwed up place.

Also, no real terrorist would

Also, no real terrorist would fly on an undependable loser airline like "AirTran" ie. Valujet. They have too big an ego to think as much.

I am a white christian an I

I am a white christian an I beleive that people like Rob and Joe are descrase to white caucasian community! We should truly be ashamed of some of our fellow citizens. Although, by no means people like Rob and Joe represent the rest of us! Muslims need to be jailed? just listen to yourself! What are we? Barbarians? Ignorance and shallowness to that degree? Your comments are truly laughable and sad at the same time!! Banning all the muslems from all the airlines is not only wrong, but also pure idotic. Instead, I suggest that we should ban inbreeding in this country so that we dont have to deal with morons like Rob and Joe with avarage IQ of 75 in the future!

I think this is one of those

I think this is one of those you have to be there to really know if it warranted this treatment type of moments. Discussing where the safest place to sit on the plane is as your walking by other passengers, well, I guess the manner in which it was being said could understandably make others uncomfortable. Heck, I always thought the question was moot anyhow, if a plane is going down is there really a safe part? I can see how the topic may disturb others just sitting within listening distance. Like anything, I think folks need to realize that when they are in public places like this everyone can listen in on a conversation and open it up to their own interpretation.

Similar incident happened

Similar incident happened with my son on Air Tran flight. Air Tran IS racist and racism has no place in America. Will never fly Air Tran.

When I first saw this story

When I first saw this story break on the news, it broke my heart. I am an immigrant from East Asia (and Christian by faith) and I could easily imagine that it could have been me and my family being escorted off that AirTran plane. Had it been some Caucasian folks discussing where the safest place to sit on the plane was, or made a comment that the engine could be seen right outside their window, I am 99% sure that the Federal Marshalls wouldn't have been called in to investigate. To be escorted off the plane by law enforcement officials in front of everyone on board (and knowing within yourself that you had done nothing wrong) is humiliating. Can't you just hear the groans and whispered complaints on the plane?- "Why'd they let those Muslim/Terrorists on MY flight, now we all have to de-Plane and go through security again... Damn Islamics; now we are all gonna be late". After being cleared and helped by the FBI to get on another flight, they were again refused. Someone made an erroneous report that one member of the party was irate and made some inappropriate comments. The airline's gate staff wields quite a bit of power, don't you think? No matter how respectful and meek you are in complying with Federal Agents, the FBI and other standard security procedures, the ground staff can still punish you for whatever reason they want by refusing to fly you.
In addition to being fully compensated, I think that all of the passengers who were inconvenienced on that flight should receive a full explanation of what went on that afternoon. That explanation should include a full exoneration of wrongdoing of the family that was escorted off the airplane in front of them. The ground staff person who falsly reported that one of the family members was irate and acted inappropriately should be identified and AirTran should report what will happen to that employee (re-assignment, re-training, etc).
This family has nothing to do with terrorism. They are law-abiding citizens who contribute to American life in a very peaceful and productive way. Why were they singled out and denied their wish to go on vacation as planned? Well, the women wore head coverings and the men had moustaches and beards. Oh, and they had darker complexions...
Sometimes I think that if we weren't "fighting terrorism", and involved in a bunch of wars in the Middle East, public enemy #1 might be China and Asians in general. You know, all of the manufacturing jobs going across the Pacific with East Asia's economies surging, etc? Then my 'slanted eyes', yellow skin and dark hair night be the markers of distinction that would cause fellow non-Asian Americans to deny me a nice hotel room, a quicker passage through security screening, a good table in a nice restaurant, a senior executive job, a date with their son or daughter; and kick me off of airplanes for the helluvit. And how do I explain all of this to my young children?
You monsters that are defending Airtrans' following of proper procedures have probably never walked 50 yards in my shoes.

And Joe as well....another

And Joe as well....another scared individual, frightened he may be blown up any second...and he thinks that everyone here in the US gets along, unlike the middle east.

so Joe doesn't get upset and think I misunderstood his hatred of Arabs..."All Arab muslims that hate the west, and the USA should leave and go back to their roots in the middle east.", another laughable yet completely idiotic comment from what I would guess is someone ill-informed and under-educated....not to mention their complete lack of any knowledge about the Arab world.

Wow, ignorance and shallowness in aplenty here...

oh, and Joe...I wish you

oh, and Joe...I wish you would go back to your roots wherever it is you come from...I can guarantee that your ancestors didn't come from here either.

Rob: Since when has

Rob: Since when has discussing the safest place to sit on a plane been an act of terrorism?

It was reasonable for AirTran and the FBI to investigate when a passenger lodged a complaint, but it is intolerable that AirTran is alleged to have refused to board the Muslim family after their names were cleared.

Muslim extremists do not compose the entirety of the world Muslim population; in fact, they are a distinct minority. It is true that they must be dealt with in an appropriate manner, but holding all Muslims to blame is not the correct solution. I find it appalling that you believe "[Muslims] are taught as children to hate the West" and that it is a "twisted faith". This is simply not true.

I'm a Jew and I know and

I'm a Jew and I know and understand when there was discrimination , there was no discrimination when all the family was removed from the plane , there was no discrimination when the FBI was called , all this is normal standard procedure when there is anything suspect about any passenger. But having the FBI asking the airline to rebook the passengers and have this request denied???? that is discrimination , changing your stand after 3 hours Airtran will not help your case. Employees that refuse the rebooking should be punished and more and more apologies are in order. Me I will not fly them. Just a suggestion to my brothers Muslims. Don't fly them.

If we don't like how other

If we don't like how other people view us for whatever reason let us make it our mission to do what WE can to change that perception to a positive one and then we can have hope for a better future.

Well, it`s the down-side of

Well, it`s the down-side of being a muslim in a country that has been attacked by Muslims. Aside from that, people of all backrounds should watch what they say when onboard an airplane.

French Catholic here, who is

French Catholic here, who is open minded...

Re: Emilio's comment...

"fellow Muslims that have hijacked the world’s hope for a peaceful future by either embracing or condoning (by failing to protest and disassociate themselves therefrom) radical and way too often extremely violent actions in the name of a religion that, though failed as any other religion, hasn’t evolved much since the dark middle ages during which it was grounded and hasn’t benefited from three centuries of European-born “Enlightenment”.

Let's take a look at the Western Christian world recent history of violence in the name of faith while no Christian spoke up or did anything to say that these events were unChristian...

1. The Vatican remains silent, and in many European Dioceses during World War Two, Catholics are complicit in the deaths and destruction millions of people, mostly Jews. Emilio remains silent as an enlightened Christian.

2. Catholics and protestants slug it out (still ) in Northern Ireland and the recent bombings, blown up school children and religious driven killings of the past 4 decades. Emilio remains silent as an enlightened Christian.

3. At the turn of the last century. King Leopold, head of the Belgian monarchy and a Christian evangelist is responsible for the murder of up to 30 million deaths in the Belgian Congo, in the name of "enlightenment" against savages who do not produce enough rubber or goods to be sent back to Belgium. Emilio remains silent as an enlightened Christian.

4. Timothy, McVeigh, America's homegrown Christian evangelist terrorist blows up hundreds at the Oklahoma federal building. No one blames Christianity. Emilio remains silent as an enlightened Christian.

5. The Lord's Resistance Army (a Christian fundamentalist army in Uganda), responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and the sex enslavement of thousands children and women continue operating in the name of God and christianity without Christian in the US disassociating themselves from them. Emilio remains silent as an enlightened Christian.

6. Born Again Christian George Bush and the Republican Taliban Party of the United States encourages America to invade Iraq (by telling a big fat lie) resulting in the deaths of over 1 million innocent Iraqis and thousands of American troops. Emilio remains silent as an enlightened Christian.

You see Emilio, no Christian will apologize for the wrongs of Christian fanatics (Timothy McVeigh, the Vatican, Bush, etc, etc, etc) because they know that the murderers that I have just listed are far and few in between. You may want to come to grips with your anti-islamic phobia and become a real Christian by using the reasoning that enlightenment gave you. If there are a few bad apples in Christianity, does it mean that we're all that bad? I don't think so.

Do us a favor and extend the same brotherly courtesy to your muslim neighbors who are also dealing with their own extremist bad apples that incidentally are far fewer than what we have had (and have) in Christianity. It's time to speak up Emilio.

And as if sent from above to

And as if sent from above to prove my point....I present to you Rob, the poster above. A scared, racially charged, child, who will live the rest of their lives in fear.

I'll quote Rob for a lttle help..."They should be put in jailed and deported back to the middle east"

Laughable, and yet makes me want to cry for the stupidity and ignorance this comment represents. Don't say I didn't tell you so geolemon.

I'm a little unclear on what

I'm a little unclear on what AirTran did wrong... The air marshalls are the ones that contacted the authorities regarding these passengers.. They do not even work for the airline. The authorities are the ones that detained the passengers for questioning. And people are complaining because AirTran would not let them back on before they were cleared by the authorities? Get a grip people! This is not discrimination. This is common sense. Sounds like these are some disgruntled passengers hoping to get some attention and make a few bucks..

Wow, Geolemon, what a

Wow, Geolemon, what a horribly conceptualized and ignorant argument.

Your first paragraph specifically states "a situation where a dangerous passenger was observed"...ummm, exactly where was this dangerous passenger? Why wasnt he Black or White or asian? As per your statement also "but NOT investigated because they DID match a suspicious profile?", ok, so what profile was fitting the description of this family? They were Arab?

In your third paragraph you state "But the Arab family themselves even misconstrues the nature of the racism."....wrong...they hit it on the head....Americans in general see Arabs and think Muslims (hence terrorism, our own govt established that link long ago, for their own benefit). Hell, why would the Republicans attempt to smear Obama by saying he was muslim during the campaign...and then listen to all the sheep bleat their fear at the fact, even though it was completely WRONG.

Your fourth paragraph doesnt even warrant a response except to say your ignorance of what you are stating is incomprehensible...I would parallel it to people who say the Holocaust didnt happen in its ...complete head-in-the-sand denial of what is really going on in the country (maybe you forgot all the things we did to Arabs after the war started, just because they were Arab, and HERE in our own country...not to mention the hate speech that is still going on about Muslims). This statement just puts you over the top..."The perception of Americans being Anti-Muslim is unique to Muslims!"

Maybe you dont know history very well but the view of religion that most people "see" includes the Crusades, the Inquisition...I mean just look at the Gaza strip right now and tell me what religion looks like to you?

and I quote..."Americans are [understandably] frightened of terrorists and terrorism, and [understandably] tune in and maybe develop a little paranoia when they see someone who they believe might fit the visual profile of one…"....in other words..an Arab...way to not seem racially influenced...

"But that’s not religion, or religious-based on what they see with their eyes, and how they react to their inner fear. An Arab-American might be a Buddhist or a Christian, and I don’t think anyone would treat him differently."....while this may be true ( I mean, c'mon, how are you supposed to know what someones belief is unless they are wearing it on their "sleeve"), thanks to our govt, and all the propaganda from the war, the first thing the average American sees when they see an Arab is a Muslim (which, for the most part IS true...the majority of Arabs ARE Muslim). If you don't believe me, you haven't been paying attention for the last 6 years.

I agree with you that they need to be compensated but the previous arguments you make are utterly false.....the average american is scared of terrorists. yes. but for the first 3 years of the war, our govt. left these two ideals inextricably linked, cementing in American minds that the Quran and terrorism are one and the same. These people SAID nothing wrong, DID nothing wrong, and yet the airline is right.

If you believe that....then you just may be the next person who "says the wrong thing".

Speaking objectively as

Speaking objectively as someone who has worked in the airline industry for many years, I feel that had the airline ignored the situation then they would truly have done something WRONG. This situation is unfortunate, however I doubt that the accusations of "profiling" are justified. I have seen many passengers questioned and or removed from flights over the years, not all of which appeared to be of muslim faith. No one has even mentioned the fact that the flight in question was departing from Reagan-National airport, which has very strict security directives- in fact until recently NO passenger was even permitted to stand during flights in or out of this airport. Yes, Americans are skittish and we should be. Have we not learned our lesson? The airline and the pilot in charge both have the legal right to remove anyone who may potentially cause fear/discomfort to other passengers, or even raises concerns when it comes to safety and security. You should feel much safer knowing that these precautions ARE being taken. To simply chalk this incident up as 'profiling' is terribly ignorant.

So Rick, AirTran says it was

So Rick, AirTran says it was the air marshals and you believe them without question.

Seems the Transportation Safety Administration version is different had you chosen to read anything more about the story.

“Federal officials say a passenger on the plane notified a flight attendant about a suspicious conversation, and the flight attendant notified the pilot and federal air marshals who were aboard. The pilot asked the air marshals to remove the passengers, said Transportation Security Administration spokesman Christopher White…

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/01/02/family.grounded/index.html

I agree with the FBI and the

I agree with the FBI and the airline that ANY concern raised by the passengers-at-large is wise to investigate! Consider the worst-case-scenario prospects of a situation where a dangerous passenger was observed, concerns were raised, but NOT investigated because they DID match a suspicious profile? Oh sure, great idea.

I agree that there are elements of this that SEEM prejudiced. I can see and sympathise with how terribly inconvenienced this family was, and agree that a simple refund is no compromise for the hours of planning, other reservations and deposits lost, lost opportunity, work scheduling time off, coordinated family planning, and of course - the actual loss of perhaps badly needed vacation time and the related mental anguish. The family should be compensated for all that, if indeed the investigation was fruitless, if the FBI cleared them, and the airline therefore had no reason to hold them!

Yes, the public-at-large (and therefore passengers-at-large) are likely to be prejudiced. Yes, Arab families might need to mind their P's and Q's a bit more than some other racial groups. But the Arab family themselves even misconstrues the nature of the racism, saying:
"They see one Muslim talking to another Muslim and they automatically assume something wrong is going on."

I don't believe anyone "sees" religion. What does religion look like? But this is the crux of what the middle east (and obviously Arab-Americans also) believe the prejudice to be. There's some ignorance in believing that Americans see "Muslims" rather than "Arabs". It's the fuel behind the anti-American sentiment in the middle east, and that's dangerous. The perception of Americans being Anti-Muslim is unique to Muslims!

Americans are [understandably] frightened of terrorists and terrorism, and [understandably] tune in and maybe develop a little paranoia when they see someone who they believe might fit the visual profile of one...
But that's not religion, or religious-based on what they see with their eyes, and how they react to their inner fear. An Arab-American might be a Buddhist or a Christian, and I don't think anyone would treat him differently. It's the terrorism that breeds fear.

The comfort (and calmness) of the passengers is rightfully a concern of the airline, but the airline needs to manage the expense involved in maintaining that, just as they invest in comfortable seats. The wrongdoing was toppling this family's domino and not taking responsibility for the domino effect... compensation time!

Everyone is so quick to

Everyone is so quick to accuse AirTran of discrimination.. I haven't seen anything supporting the Irfan's accusations that they were discriminated against... They are claiming that the FBI cleared them and AirTran still wouldn't let them back on?? That should be very easy to confirm with the FBI if it was true. If no one is able to confirm that, I would assume that it is not true. This seems like a case if inflamatory journalism more than anything.. CNN should not be reporting these stories if they are too lazy to do some investigation to find out what really happened, and I see nothing indicating they did this.

I think unfortunately we all

I think unfortunately we all think back to 9/11. This is something Americans will never ever forget nor should we.

And no one should ever discuss where it’s safe to sit while getting on an airplane. What in the world did these people expect to happen?

They were following your advice Susan, and never forgot 9/11.

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