AirTran Airways was in damage control mode Friday after forcing nine Muslim passengers off an Orlando-bound flight at Reagan International Airport in Arlington, Va., the previous day. The travelers were detained after two other passengers reported hearing what they considered to be threatening remarks by 33-year-old Inayet Sahin as she and members of her family found their seats on the plane. Sahin and her group denied any wrongdoing, and on Friday they were considering AirTran’s conciliatory offer of a refund and a return trip home.
The Washington Post:
Officials said several other passengers overheard the conversation and became alarmed when they heard Sahin remark that sitting near the engines would not be safe in the event of an accident or explosion. Irfan and Izaz said the remark was entirely misconstrued and that the conversation was nothing more than innocuous banter.
“The conversation we were having was the conversation anyone would have,” Irfan said of his sister-in-law in a telephone interview from Florida today. “She did not use the word bomb, she did not use the word explosion. She said it would not be safe to sit next to the engines in the event of an accident.”
The three were traveling with six others: Irfan’s brother, Kashif, 34; Kashif’s three boys, ages 7, 4 and 2; Sahin’s sister; and a family friend. All but one are U.S.-born citizens, but Kashif Irfan said he and the others think they were profiled at least in part because of their appearance. He said three of the six adults in the party are of Pakistani descent, two are of Turkish descent and one is African American. He also said they have a traditionally Muslim appearance, with the men wearing beards and the women in head scarves.