An airline has apologised 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 on the AirTran flight said the confusion started at Reagan National Airport just outside Washington, DC, when he talked about the safest place to sit on an airplane.
Orlando, Florida-based AirTran said in a statement that it refunded the passengers' air fare and planned to reimburse them for replacement tickets they bought on US Airways. AirTran also offered to take the passengers back to Washington free of charge.
"We apologise to all of the passengers -- to the nine who had to undergo extensive interviews from the authorities and to the 95 who ultimately made the flight," the statement said.
"Nobody on Flight 175 reached their destination on time on New Year's Day, and we regret it."
The airline said the incident on the flight from Reagan National Airport to Orlando was a misunderstanding, but the steps taken were necessary.
A US Muslim advocacy group, meanwhile, filed a complaint yesterday with the US Department of Transportation. "It is incumbent on any airline to ensure that members of the travelling public are not singled out or mistreated based on their perceived race, religion or national origin" the Council for American-Islamic Relations said.
One of the Muslim passengers, Atif Irfan, said the family probably would not fly home with AirTran because members had already booked tickets on another airline, but appreciated the apology.