United Airlines is headed towards failure, with or without Islamophobia. There is a long list of things in which the airline is lagging behind its smaller domestic competitors like Alaska Airlines and others. United Airlines has been regularly ranked as one of the worst airlines in North America, and the airline staff has been reported as rude and arrogant hundreds of times in recent years. In an effort to shrug off responsibility, the CEO of United Airlines, Jeff Smisek wrote an editorial letter published in United Hemispheres, explaining how the airline was trying its best to fight the gulf carriers like Emirates, Qatar, and Etihad Airways due to open skies policy.
Apart from revenues, there are many other aspects of the airline’s policies and staff which are tell-tale signs of the airline’s lack of honesty, trustworthiness, and efficient efforts. These issues include the rude, argumentative, and confrontational airport staff as well as the on-board staff, the seemingly obvious threats of mentioning people’s names on the no-fly list, which has become very common, the lawsuit against the 22-year-old Aktarer Zaman for founding the website Skiplagged.com, which promised to get people cheaper tickets by ‘hidden city ticketing,’ the ridiculous penalties for rescheduling tickets, and their luggage rules.
The recent reports of United Airlines staff showing complete lack of courtesy, and displaying abject insensitivity towards a passenger’s simple demand for an unopened can of Diet Coke, has angered many people. Hundreds have chosen to completely boycott United Airlines after the passenger’s emotional Facebook post about the incident went viral. After the backlash, United Airlines management was caught trying to come up with a response. They tried to put the blame on the airline’s regional partner, Shuttle America, which was operating the flight.
However, the discrimination angle in this particular case showing United Airlines staff being prejudiced against the Muslim woman, does not reveal the real deep-rooted rust in the entire style of functioning of one of the biggest passenger airliner in the U.S. A closer look at United Airlines work standards, policies, and customer satisfaction records will show the systematic failure that the airline is headed towards, notwithstanding whether the airline staff is Islamophobic or not.
The passenger in this case was a Muslim chaplain from the Northwestern University in Chicago, Tahera Ahmad. She was on-board her United Airlines flight, when she asked for an unopened, fresh can of Diet Coke for herself. As Ahmad has mentioned, she asked for the unopened can due to hygienic reasons. To this, the response from the flight attendant was shocking. Ahmad was told that she cannot be given an unopened can of soda, so no Diet Coke for her. If the flight attendant was trying to be cheeky and humorous, she must be informed that it was rude enough to make any person lose his or her cool.
However, when the passenger sitting next to Ahmad received an unopened a can of beer from the in-flight paid service, Ahmad was informed by the flight attendant that they were not authorized to give unopened cans to people, as they could use the can as a weapon on the plane. The discrimination from the United Airlines staff as well as her co-passengers led Ahmad to feel hurt, humiliated, and close to tears. The offensive words thrown at her by other passengers have no justification, and that gave the entire incident a racial color.
Charles Hobart, the United Airlines spokesman, informed the media that United Airlines had tried to get in touch with Ahmad to understand the incident that occurred on the flight. He said that they had made multiple attempts to contact Ahmad, but failed. Later, Ahmad informed a media organization that she had received an apology from the flight attendant herself, who acknowledged that it was unethical on her part to discriminate against Ahmad by not giving her the unopened can of Diet Coke. Reportedly, the United Airlines flight attendant also told Ahmad that the other passenger should not have said anything.
A post on the website of United Airlines made extremely nonsensical and futile efforts to deflect the issue as merely an incident caused due to a misunderstanding. The airline has patted itself on the back for getting in touch with Ahmad to resolve the misunderstanding, and has invited her on-board for her future journeys. This callous behavior clarifies even further, that United Airlines is headed towards failure, with or without Islamphobia. Ahmad also posted another response to the airline’s effort to trivialize the incident. She has mentioned how the airline’s effort ridicules and questions her integrity. Ahmad is a social activist who has worked for bringing peace between Israel and Palestine through dialogue. This article is the first in a series of investigative articles about the negligence, insensitivity, and absolute arbitrary ways of functioning of United Airlines.
(Please watch this space for Part 2 of the series)
By Ankur Sinha
Huffington Post-United Airlines Is Being Boycotted After ‘Islamophobic’ Treatment Of Muslim University Chaplain Tahera Ahmad
CNN-United apologizes after in-flight discrimination claim
The Times Of India-United Airlines faces boycott for ‘Islamophobia’ at 30,000 feet
Photo Courtesy of Christian Junker-AHKGAP’s Flickr Page-Creative Commons License
Photo Courtesy of m01229’s Flickr Page-Creative Commons License