Friday, January 02, 2009

A Muslim New Year Vacation

On its web site, AirTran Airways has a dozen tips to make "your trip more convenient than travel by sleigh" but, unfortunately for one family, no suggestion about subjects for conversation while boarding the plane.

As Atif Irfan and his family were looking for their seats on a Washington-Orlando flight Thursday, they were overheard discussing which part of the plane was "safest" and, as a result, were taken off, questioned by the FBI and, even after being cleared as terror suspects, denied booking on a later flight.

"The airline told us that we can't fly their airline," says Irfan, a US citizen and tax attorney who, with his brother, their wives, a sister and three children, was planning to meet with family and attend a religious conference.

"The conversation, as we were walking through the plane trying to find our seats, was just about where the safest place in an airplane is," his sister-in-law recalls, "the wing, or the engine or the back or the front, but that's it. We didn't say anything else that would raise any suspicion."

The airline insists it was abiding by Homeland Security rules, but for their next trip, the Irfan family may want to consider traveling by sleigh, which would be a lot slower than AirTran but much more pleasant.

Update: After all the publicity about the incident, AirTran a day later apologized to the family and offered them free return flights home. No word about possible seating arrangements.

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