Air marshals asked Muslim passengers off board after their remarks about safety on the plane
AirTran Airways apologized Friday to nine Muslims kicked off a New Year's Day flight to Florida after other passengers reported hearing a suspicious remark about airplane security. One of the passengers said the confusion started at Reagan National Airport just outside Washington, D.C., when he talked about the safest place to sit on an airplane.
Nine passengeres removed from the board underwent extensive interviews from the authorities. Other passengers had to deal with the flight being delayed. AirTran said the incident was a misunderstanding, but the steps taken were necessary. Two Muslim organizations filed a protest and called for investigation.
One of the removed and questioned passengers told AP he appreciated the apology from the airline. Atif Irfan recalled the conversation he had onboard with his wife. When they boarded the flight Thursday, he mentioned something to his wife and sister-in-law about having to sit in the back. His sister-in-law replied that she believed the back of the airplane was the safest, but Irfan believed it was better to be by the wings.
"She said, 'Yes, I guess it makes sense not to be close to the engine in case something happens,'" Irfan recalled Friday. "It was a very benign conversation". Shortly afterwards they were approached by air marshalls and asked off the plane.