A Winnipeg doctor is demanding an official apology and compensation from United Airlines after being kicked off a flight in the U.S. this week, an incident he has characterized as "institutionalized discrimination."
Dr. Ahmed Farooq, a Muslim, was escorted off an airplane in Denver on Tuesday.According to Farooq, reciting his evening prayers was interpreted by one passenger asan activity that was suspicious.
"The whole situation is just really frustrating," Farooq said. "It makes you uneasy, because you realize you have to essentially watch every single thing you say and do, and it's worse for people who are of colour, who are identifiable as a minority."
Farooq said the allegation came from a passenger who appeared drunk and had previously threatened him during the trip.
When flight personnel were alerted, the 27-year-old radiology resident and two colleagues — a man and a woman — were taken off their flight. They had been returning from a conference in San Francisco.
Farooq said that even officials from the Transportation Security Administration soon realized the flight crew had overreacted, but by the time that conclusion had been reached the trio were forced to stay in Denver for the night and catch a flight the next day — at their own expense.
"There's no recourse," Farooq said. "There's no way to really be able to talk to anybody to really be able to reason it out. The police officers who talked to me afterwards and subsequent officials within the first three to five minutes, they were like, 'You know what? The crew made a mistake. We apologize that they took you off. They overreacted.'"
Brandon Borrman of United Airlines told the Winnipeg Free Press this week that the airline is obliged to take any allegations threatening passenger safety seriously, particularly in the wake of last week's arrests in the alleged bomb plot on flights from Britain to the U.S.
"Whenever these types of claims are made we have a duty to investigate," Borrman said. "Our flight crews are trained to make safety the No. 1 priority."
Winnipeg MP Pat Martin has called on federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day to raise the issue with his American counterparts.