JetBlue Refuses to Let Hindu Man Board Flight During Ramadan, Concerned About His "Disposition"

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Air travel has become such a nightmare that it's hard to muster any surprise about the hassles and indignities travelers face on a regular basis.

Excruciatingly long lines, invasive pat-downs, awkward luggage inspections, delays, cancelations--and, oh yeah, racial profiling--are all pretty much accepted as par for the course.

Aditya Mukerjee, who lives and works in New York and is Hindu, not Muslim, wrote about a particularly awful experience he had at JFK recently in blog post titled "Don't Fly During Ramadan."

Mukerjee was scheduled to fly out of JFK to meet his family in Los Angeles earlier this summer. The whole ordeal started, he writes, when he declined to go through the airport's millimeter wave detectors. According to Mukerjee, he was ultimately detained for about four hours and questioned by the TSA, NYPD, FBI, and Homeland Security.

Incredibly, though, in the end it was the airline itself, JetBlue, that would not allow him to board the flight he had a ticket for, or any other flight to Los Angeles that day. From the questions he was asked, Mukerjee (who, again, is Hindu, not Muslim) got the impression he was being profiled because he was flying during the Muslim holiday Ramadan.

Here is Mukerjee's exchange with JetBlue, in his own words:

As they patted me down for the fourth time, a female TSA agent asked me for my baggage claim ticket. I handed it to her, and she told me that a woman from JetBlue corporate security needed to ask me some questions as well. I was a bit surprised, but agreed. After the pat-down, the JetBlue representative walked in and cooly introduced herself by name.

She explained, "We have some questions for you to determine whether or not you're permitted to fly today. Have you flown on JetBlue before?"

"Yes"

"How often?"

"Maybe about ten times," I guessed.

"Ten what? Per month?"

"No, ten times total."

She paused, then asked, "Will you have any trouble following the instructions of the crew and flight attendants on board the flight?"

"No." I had no idea why this would even be in doubt.

"We have some female flight attendants. Would you be able to follow their instructions?"

I was almost insulted by the question, but I answered calmly, "Yes, I can do that."

"Okay," she continued, "and will you need any special treatment during your flight? Do you need a special place to pray on board the aircraft?"

Only here did it hit me.

"No," I said with a light-hearted chuckle, trying to conceal any sign of how offensive her questions were. "Thank you for asking, but I don't need any special treatment."

She left the room, again, leaving me alone for another ten minutes or so. When she finally returned, she told me that I had passed the TSA's inspection. "However, based on the responses you've given to questions, we're not going to permit you to fly today."

I was shocked. "What do you mean?" were the only words I could get out.

"If you'd like, we'll rebook you for the flight tomorrow, but you can't take the flight this afternoon, and we're not permitting you to rebook for any flight today."

I barely noticed the irony of the situation--that the TSA and NYPD were clearing me for takeoff, but JetBlue had decided to ground me.

Read his full blog post.

Mukerjee says JetBlue did eventually refund his ticket, but he had to rebook with another airline to get on a flight the same day. The whole awful experience cost him an extra $700.

Since his blogpost went up Thursday afternoon, JetBlue has fielded a barrage of questions on Twitter about its handling of the events.

We've reached out to the airline for further clarification about its policies, and will update with their response. (Update: JetBlue has not responded to multiple requests for comment.)

On Twitter, the company admitted that Mukerjee was prevented from boarding the flight, and said a judgment call was made based on his "disposition at the time." JetBlue also said it stands by its decision.



Send story tips to the author, Tessa Stuart


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133 comments
nkimm
nkimm

http://boardingarea.com/flyingwithfish/2013/08/26/did-the-tsa-jetblue-deny-travel-for-looking-muslim-during-ramadan-nope/

The above link shows a much more complete article.

Ultimately, just as drunk people are not allowed to fly, belligerent people (of any race or background) who fail multiple explosives tests and behavior tests and are noticeably angry should not be allowed onto a plane with 150 other people. A 24 hour "cool off" period is normal and reasonable and is done for a variety of reasons. My Mukerjee is crying wolf for his own bad behavior. This was not a race issue.

mworkflow
mworkflow

"The whole ordeal started, he writes, when he declined to go through the airport's millimeter wave detectors". Are you suggesting there is nothing unusual when somebody refuses security scan? Would you care to elaborate on that?

frank124c
frank124c topcommenter

Those machines that they want to use to spy on your junk can cause health problems. Patting someone down is a violation of privacy. This is all being down in the name of fighting "terrorism." Yet the United States government is the biggest terrorist organization in the world. Maybe the people who use airplanes should punish Jet Blue and their ilk by using trains, buses and cars rather than be treated like animals.

enmukee
enmukee

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

LauraLingerLLC
LauraLingerLLC

@villagevoice As is their right. JetBlue is a business. It has no obligations to *any* of its passengers and can deny boarding to anyone.

PukkahPunjabi
PukkahPunjabi

@chimeracoder Your story has reached the UK too - racial profiling very much in the news here. Thanks for highlighting your experience.

ddkernan
ddkernan

@chimeracoder Good! The more people know of the outrageousness of TSA and all you went through the better for change

isilgulin
isilgulin

@chimeracoder wow! I think you should sue these government institutions. Terrorism should not be an excuse to stalk and abuse people.

emmett9001
emmett9001

@chimeracoder it has a ton of national relevancy, is very well-written, and obviously very honest

nkimm
nkimm

@mworkflow its only suspicious when the behavior test officer thinks you are acting strangely, then you refuse screening, then you fail MULTIPLE explosive tests on different machines (making the false positive scenario unlikely) and you are evasive to directions....

opterouter
opterouter

@mworkflow there is nothing suspicious about opting out of the body scanners.  I do it all the time because the high false positive rate leads to a patdown anyway.  People with external medical devices may have to opt out.  

Stevart
Stevart

@LauraLingerLLC @villagevoice Not quite dearie.   According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 withholding services to someone based upon race/religion/sex is against the law.  POS!

nkimm
nkimm

@isilgulin @chimeracoder People who fail multiple explosive tests should not be allowed to just leave and try to go through security again, hoping for a different person who won't properly test/question them. 

No evidence of FBI involvement or raiding his apartment...

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@kevinlukemay Sent a link to a story regarding the resolution to a legal conflict I had. It ultimately is about a current Pax v TSA story

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@AsherLangton My conversation with you is going no-where. As I said, believe what you'd like. Draw any conclusion you'd like.

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@AsherLangton Go read the TNooz link and it was dismissed because the client in question stated the accusations and allegations were false

AsherLangton
AsherLangton

@flyingwithfish The truth. You're making specific unlikely claims (esp. # of inside contacts). Your veracity is questionable.

AsherLangton
AsherLangton

@flyingwithfish So this is a lie? "granted [...] diversionary program that enables first-time offenders to maintain a clean criminal record"

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@AsherLangton When it was happening, if you search my Tweets, you'll find I was open about it as it was happening.

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@AsherLangton You think you're the first person to come up with this? That was a business dispute. As I said, don't care what you believe

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@AsherLangton Go search my record, there is no record of any arrest because it was expunged and I was never even arraigned.

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@AsherLangton You mean where the accusations were deemed false, the case was dropped and my record completely expunged ?

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@aphillipo I am just saying, it is a hazard of what I do, but when these stories get put in front of me, step one is matching up stories.

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@aphillipo The statements are from multiple agencies, from people who wrote them independently& I have info not in the incident report

aphillipo
aphillipo

@flyingwithfish strange world we live in right now. Bit shocked by it all, sorry to hear about your treatment...

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@aphillipo I have spoken to multiple people with direct knowledge, who are independent of the incident report & read the report statements

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@aphillipo I still don't believe in conspiracy , i just know my coverage of them at times really pisses them off. But I am fair and diligent

aphillipo
aphillipo

@flyingwithfish cool, look forward to seeing all the info you are going to get from a different viewpoint.

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@aphillipo The TSA sent two Feds to my house 3 days, seized my laptop, destroyed my hard drive, have illegally been in my mail & detained me

aphillipo
aphillipo

@flyingwithfish er… no? I'm saying the treatment seems quite extreme to me. I think a lot of people see this as excessive.

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@aphillipo It will be far longer than a tweet. I am still holding out for one last piece of info if I can find it

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@aphillipo Are you alleging that a dozen people from multiple agencies and an airline are involved in a conspiracy agains a single person?

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@aphillipo When I end up covering these types of stories I make sure all my bases are covered before I start piecing a picture together

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@aphillipo I am not in the habit of defending the TSA and have had issues with the agency you can't imaging that have been quite public

flyingwithfish
flyingwithfish

@aphillipo You don't know me, but I have covered aviation security since Sept 15 2001 and TSA since Nov 19 2001 and I do it neutrally

aphillipo
aphillipo

@flyingwithfish if that is the main quibble you have with this you are misunderstanding the problems with this Kafkaesque limbo he was in.

chimeracoder
chimeracoder

@AsherLangton I'm equally curious why I was repeatedly denied my requests to leave & to use my phone, even after being denied boarding

nkimm
nkimm

@mrtouchshriek You miss the other piece of it. Drunk people get through TSA and airlines still deny boarding. TSA had not decided when it was time for Jetblue to decide. A 24 hour cool off period is standard for belligerant/drunk people. As another passenger, I would not want someone who is noticeably angry to be locked on a tube with me for 5 hours. He needed time to calm down. Every report showed that he was uncooperative, agitated, and angry. He was picking a fight

mrtouchshriek
mrtouchshriek

Hi.  This is false, and it has been affirmed that @chimeracoder had the TSA's permission to fly. It was entirely JetBlue's decision to "punish" @chimeracoder for his apparent "insolence" by not permitting him to fly.  Unacceptable treatment of a customer.  I hope they lose business over this slap in the face.

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