United Airlines is in hot water after a flight attendant refused to give an unopened can of Diet Coke to a Muslim woman.
United Airlines, the world’s largest airline by number of destinations served, faces charges of discrimination and increasing calls for boycott after a Muslim passenger was denied an unopened can of Diet Coke last Friday on a flight from Chicago to Washington. After escalating social pressure, United Airlines apologized today via a press release stating, “United does not tolerate behavior that is discriminatory” and adding that the flight attendant involved would not fly with the airline again.
The incident took place in mid-air on a Shuttle America flight when Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim chaplain and director of interfaith engagement at Northwestern University, asked one of the flight attendants for an unopened can of Diet Coke for hygienic reasons. Shuttle America is a partner airline of United Airlines.
According to Ahmad’s account, the flight attendant told her that she could not have an unopened can of Diet Coke. A male passenger near Ahmad, however, was later served an unopened can of beer. Ahmad questioned the flight attendant, who said that “we are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a weapon on the plane.”
At this point, another passenger reportedly took opportunity to hurl anti-Muslim remarks at Ahmad. She recalled the rage in his eyes and succumbed to tears after no one defended her.
Ahmad, who has in recent years become a prominent representative of the Muslim faith in the United States and has even been recognized by the White House, reported the incident on her Facebook page. Despite apologies by the flight attendant and the pilot and statements by the airline, turbulence around United Airlines has continued. There’s even a movement on social media calling people to boycott United Airlines.
Ahmad herself has stressed that her actions aren’t directed against United Airlines, but against the bigotry and racism she feels are spreading worryingly in America.