Pilots Allegedly Refused To Fly With Muslims On Board
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and United Firm
of Carolina Law (UFC Law) announced the filing of a lawsuit against
Delta Air Lines and Atlantic Southeast Airlines for removing two
Islamic religious leaders, or imams, from a flight to a conference
on Islamophobia in Charlotte, N.C., earlier this year. The suit
alleges that the pilot refused to fly with them on board.
"Despite having been cleared twice by TSA agents, Defendants'
pilot took the matter into his own hands when he chose to eject
Plaintiffs from the flight based on arbitrary and capricious
reasons, including his personal preconceived notions of race,
religion, and national origin," the suit states.
According to the document filed with the court, the two imams
were screened twice by TSA agents before boarding the airplane,
were not seated together, and "exchanged pleasantries" with
passengers seated next to them. They were asked to step off the
plane and were searched again. The complaint says they were cleared
to re-board the airplane.
But the pilots apparently refused to fly if they were on board.
"(A) Delta’s supervisor directed them not to enter, because
Defendants’ pilot was not allowing them onto the airplane.
Plaintiffs asked why, and Defendant Delta’s supervisor stated
that the Defendants’ pilot refused to articulate a reason for
denying Plaintiffs entry onto the airplane. Defendant Delta’s
supervisor explained that the Plaintiffs were entitled to board the
plane after clearing the additional security screenings.
"Plaintiffs insisted that Defendant Delta’s supervisor
obtain a reason for the Defendant’s pilot’s denial from
the pilot himself. The supervisor agreed that this was appropriate
and entered the plane with the apparent purpose of explaining to
the pilot that the pilot lacked a rational basis for excluding
"When Defendant Delta’s supervisor returned, he was irate
by Defendants’ pilot’s obstinate refusal to articulate
a reason as to why the pilot was denying Plaintiffs’
boarding. The supervisor encapsulated his assessment of
Defendants’ pilot’s actions in the following words: 'He
According to the lawsuit, the defendants violated both a federal
law preventing an air carrier from subjecting a passenger to
"discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin,
religion, sex, or ancestry" and a Tennessee law that prohibits
denying an individual the "full and equal enjoyment of the. .
.advantages and accommodations of a place of public accommodation.
. .on the grounds of race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, or
The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction that would prohibit the
defendants from "singling out passengers for mistreatment based on
their perceived race, color, ethnicity, religion, alienage,
ancestry, and/or national origin" and order them to "take all
affirmative steps necessary to remedy the effects of the illegal,
discriminatory conduct described herein and to prevent similar
occurrences in the future." It also seeks attorneys' fees and
compensatory and punitive damages against Delta and Atlantic
Southeast Airlines "in an amount to be determined at trial."
Delta and ASA both said in statements that they would not
comment on pending litigation.