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Delta Air Lines fined $50,000 for ejecting Muslim passengers from flights

Delta Air Lines fined $50,000 for ejecting Muslim passengers from flights

After the uproar of ordering the passengers to leave their planes, Delta were fined $50,000 for violating anti-discrimination laws but they deny discrimination.

Nearly 4 years on, the US Department of Transportation (DoT) has issued Delta a $50,000 fine and an order to “cease and desist from future violations” in light of charges brought against it in the summer of 2016. The DoT assert that Delta violated anti-discrimination laws, but Delta have denied this, claiming they should have handled the situation in a different manner.

The first case saw a Muslim couple travelling home to Cincinnati from Paris, being interviewed by Delta security officials after a fellow passenger complained to a flight attendant about their behaviour. The fellow passenger claimed to have felt “very uncomfortable” at the couple’s behaviour. After the interview was conducted, the security officials cleared the passengers for travel, having reported they “raised no red flags.” However, it was the captain of the plane who refused to let the passengers reboard the plane, even after being alerted that the passengers were American citizens returning home.

Only a few days later, on a Delta flight from Amsterdam to New York, another Muslim passenger was removed from a plane after having been complained about by other passengers and flight attendants. This led to the co-pilot leaving the cockpit to observe the passenger and concluding there was nothing unusual about the passenger. Nevertheless, it was the captain who took action and had the passenger removed, searched, screened and put on another flight.  

The civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), say they are pleased that Delta have been brought to justice, but object to the size of the fine. With Delta generating revenue of $5bn last year alone, Karen Dabdoub, executive director of CAIR’s Cincinnati subdivision, states that the fine is “a slap on the wrist”

It must be noted that not only has Delta had issues with removing passengers in the more recent past on completely different grounds, but they are also not the only American airline to have allegedly discriminated against Muslim passengers. In September 2019, two Muslim men were “racially profiled” on their flight from Alabama to Dallas, which was cancelled due to staff and customers feeling “uncomfortable” with the two Muslim passengers. 

In an era where concerns over a rise in Islamophobia are more present than ever, bolstered by President Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban, Delta’s actions will be met with unease in some quarters. Both the New York Times and CAIR report that hate crimes have risen annually over the last 3 years and have reached their highest recorded level since 9/11. Human Rights groups will be concerned at the increasing regularity of such incidents.

These recent developments beg the question, is discrimination against ethnic minorities being understood comprehensively and being taken seriously? More to the point, is discrimination against ethnic minorities becoming normalised? Although the DoT drawing attention to the matter in question by ruling against the airliner is clearly a step in the right direction, it is highly unlikely that the fine will be a strong enough deterrent to stop Delta or even other airliners from violating anti-discrimination laws again in the future.

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