CINCINNATI -- Delta Air Lines racially profiled a Muslim husband and wife from West Chester, the Cincinnati chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations claimed Thursday.
CAIR-Cincinnati filed a complaint against Delta with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Faisal and Nazia Ali visited London and Paris to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. When they were set to fly home from Paris to CVG July 26, an airline employee singled out the couple for removal because she was not comfortable with them on board the plane, according to the group.
The Alis are American citizens who moved here from Pakistan 16 years ago. They have three children, who Nazia Ali said they were eager to see upon returning home.
Instead of flying home as planned, an airline employee boarded the plane and told the couple they had to gather their belongings and leave.
Nazia Ali said she believed the crew member had heard one of them say "Allah." Attorneys for CAIR-Cincinnati also said they believed the couple's appearance and Nazia's headscarf drew the attention.
"I think they'd be more educated and not make assumptions based on someone's appearance," Nazia said
Faisal and Nazia Ali recounted their experience for reporters during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
"It's kind of humiliating," Nazia Ali said of being removed from the airplane.
After exiting the plane, a French police officer questioned the couple, they said. During the questioning, the plane left without them.
"My first thought was, 'We're American citizens, you can't treat us like that,'" Nazia said.
Because Delta only has one Paris-CVG flight each day, the couple had to wait until the next day to fly home.
Attorneys for CAIR-Cincinnati said they have noticed "a spike" in incidents of profiling of Muslims recently. They said they want the Department of Transportation to provide airlines with clear guidelines for when someone can actually be deemed a security issue who needs to be removed from a plane.
“We call on the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct a thorough examination into the prevailing practices of major American air carriers, including Delta Air Lines, and to develop policy guidelines on the objective factors that are to be considered when determining that a passenger may legally be removed from a flight," the group said in its announcement.
Delta issued the following statement:
"Delta condemns discrimination toward our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or gender. As a global airline that brings hundreds of thousands of people together every day, Delta is deeply committed to treating all of our customers with respect. Delta continues its investigation into this matter and will issue a full refund of these customers’ airfare."