United Apologizes to Northwestern Chaplain

June 4, 2015

United Airlines on Wednesday issued a formal public apology to Tahera Ahmad, an associate chaplain and the director of interfaith engagement at Northwestern University, for the way a flight attendant treated her. The airline's move came amid widespread criticism -- including from Northwestern's president -- for a flight attendant refusing to give Ahmad an unopened can of Diet Coke, saying that it could be used as a weapon. On social media and elsewhere, the case has become an illustration of bias faced by Muslims. United's statement Wednesday noted that the flight was operated by a company contracted by United, not United itself.

“While United did not operate the flight, Ms. Ahmad was our customer and we apologize to her for what occurred on the flight. After investigating this matter, United has ensured that the flight attendant, a Shuttle America employee, will no longer serve United customers,” the statement said. “United does not tolerate behavior that is discriminatory -- or that appears to be discriminatory -- against our customers or employees. All of United’s customer-facing employees undergo annual and recurrent customer service training, which includes lessons in cultural awareness. Customer-facing employees for Shuttle America also undergo cultural sensitivity training, and United will continue to work with all of our partners to deliver service that reflects United’s commitment to cultural awareness.”

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