Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim chaplain at Northwestern University, claims she was denied an unopened can of Diet Coke by a flight attendant on a United Airlines flight last Friday because the attendant feared she might use it as a weapon.
Ahmad was flying from Chicago to Washington D.C. when she requested the unopened can for hygienic reasons (video below).
Ahmad told CNN that the flight attendant said, "We are unauthorized to give people open beverage cans, so no Diet Coke for you."
However, Ahmad claims the same flight attendant handed an unopened can of beer to a male passenger.
Ahmad asked the flight attendant about the contradiction, and claimed she said, "We are unauthorized to give people open beverage cans because they can use it as a weapon."
Ahmad claims the flight attendant then opened the man's beer can, and told her, "Well, it's because you would use it as a weapon."
Ahmad, who was wearing a traditional Muslim headscarf (hijab), wrote on Facebook:
Apphauled at her behavior I asked people around me if they witnessed this discriminatory and disgusting behavior and the man sitting in an aisle across from me yelled out to me, "you Moslem, you need to shut the F** up." I said, "what?!"
He then leaned over from his seat, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "yes you know you would use it as a WEAPON so shut the f**k up." I felt the hate in his voice and his raging eyes. I can't help but cry on this plane because I thought people would defend me and say something. Some people just shook their heads in dismay.
United Airlines spokesman Charles Hobart claims there was a "misunderstanding" between the flight attendant and Ahmad, but wouldn't go into detail about the misunderstanding.
Hobart said that United Airlines officials spoke to Ahmad on last Saturday to "get a better understanding" and apologized "for not delivering the service our customers expect when traveling with us."
However, Ahmad told CNN, "United really did not realize that was a very unfortunate act of discrimination and bigotry."
The flight that the incident reportedly happened on was a Shuttle America flight for United; Shuttle America is owned by Republic Airways Holdings.
Bob Birge, a spokesman for Republic Airways Holdings, said yesterday:
There is policy and procedure for the beverage service, and there is no differentiation between opened and unopened cans. When a passenger requests a full can of soda, it must first be determined that enough quantity exists to provide beverage service throughout the cabin. I don't believe that was the case here, as the passenger was offered a full can of soda.
Birge added that he was "unaware of an aviation incident involving a can of soda that was ever used" as a weapon.