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CAIR Filing Complaint Against Delta For Religious Profiling

Michael Keating
Delta planes at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

This story has been updated.

Cincinnati's chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says it's filing a complaint against Delta Airlines. CAIR says it's filing the complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation for religious profiling against a Muslim couple from West Chester.

The group says the pair were singled out for removal from a Delta flight from Paris to Cincinnati when a flight attendant said she was uncomfortable with them being on the plane.

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Faisal and Nazia Ali

Faisal and Nazia Ali spent their 10th wedding anniversary touring London and Paris and had been waiting 45 minutes for their flight home to take off, when they were asked to get off the plane. A Delta ground crew member told the couple they'd been removed because a flight attendant told the captain she was uncomfortable after seeing the pair using a cell phone.

"I started panicking because I really wanted to be on the flight and I'm seeing the plane starting to back away," says Nazia Ali. "So, I'm like, 'Can you take my cell phone and show to the captain that we were just texting our parents.'"

But, the Alis say, the answer was no. Nazia says she was humiliated to be removed in front of everyone on the plane.

CAIR-Cincinnati attorney Sana Hassan says the couple passed every security screening without problem and did nothing wrong.

"They were there legally and had been on the plane for 45 minutes. Apart from the fact that Mrs. Ali is wearing a head scarf and they look Muslim, they wouldn't have been kicked off."

CAIR says it wants the Department of Transportation to define its guidelines for how airlines can determine when passengers may be legally removed.

We call on the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct a thorough examination into the prevailing practices of major American air carriers, including Delta Airlines, and to develop policy guidelines on the objective factors that are to be considered when determining that a passenger may legally be removed from a flight.

In a statement, Delta says it doesn't discriminate or condone discrimination and is looking into the allegations.

Delta Air Lines does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against any of our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or gender. We are concerned by the allegations and are looking into what transpired.

Delta later issued a second statement saying it will issue the couple a full refund.

Delta condemns discrimination toward our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or gender. As a global airline that brings hundreds of thousands of people together every day, Delta is deeply committed to treating all of our customers with respect. Delta continues its investigation into this matter and will issue a full refund of these customers’ airfare.

The Alis are American citizens, having immigrated as teens from Pakistan with their families nearly two decades ago.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.