September 11 Digital Archive

Four U.S. airlines sued for bias in offloading passengers


Four U.S. airlines sued for bias in offloading passengers



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Four U.S. airlines sued for bias in offloading passengers

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Ela Dutt

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News India-Times

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Five civil rights lawsuits filed on June 4 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), other nongovernmental entities and individuals have charged American, Continental, Northwest and United Airlines with having blatantly discriminated against five men, including two of South Asian descent. The five men were allegedly offloaded from flights based on the prejudices of airline employees and fellow passengers, for reasons unrelated to security.

The lawsuits were filed in Los Angeles, Maryland, New Jersey and San Francisco by the ACLU and Relman & Associates, a Washington-based civil rights law firm, on behalf of the five men and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Four of the passengers who were offloaded are United States citizens, including Michael Dasrath (32) of Indo-Guyanese descent; Ashrad Chowdhury of Bangladeshi origin; Edgardo Cureg, a permanent legal resident of Filipino origin, and two of Arab descent.

In ejecting our clients from their flights, the airlines were indulging in discrimination, not enforcing security, and that is both shameful and unlawful, said Reginald Shuford, an ACLU attorney who filed three of the cases. You dont have to be a security expert to know that what happened to these men had everything to do with bias and nothing to do with safety.

At a news conference in New York, Dasrath and Cureg, who were removed from the same Continental Airlines flight from New Jersey to Tampa on New Years Eve, narrated their experiences. Dasrath had taken his seat in first class when he noticed a woman with a dog glaring at him and other passengers. She told the captain, Those brown-skinned men are behaving suspiciously. Moments later, he, Cureg and another man were removed from the plane. I was working in Manhattan on September 11th and I will never forget the horror of that day, said Dasrath. But ejecting me from a flight to make a passenger feel better isnt going to make anyone any safer.

American, Continental, Northwest and United Airlines have been charged with having blatantly discriminated against five men, including two of South Asian descent.

Cureg, 34, had not met Dasrath, but at the airport gate he ran into a Sri Lankan professor from his university. While they waited to board, Cureg loaned the professor his cell phone. Once they met again on board, Cureg retrieved the phone to call his relatives. Soon after, he was among those removed from the plane.

Even though I made it safely to my final destination that day, I will never again feel free to travel in the future, because my basic right to travel free from discrimination has been grossly violated, Cureg said. The plane I was booked on left without me, and it was 11:30 p.m. before I arrived home. I spent the saddest New Years Eve of my life: alone, exhausted and depressed, with a bitter taste that lingers in my soul.

The others named in the cases are Assem Bayaa, 40, from Long Beach, Calif., ejected from Uniteds LA-N.Y. flight on Dec. 23; Arshad Chowdhury, 25, from Pittsburgh, Pa., who had to disembark from Northwest Airlines San Francisco-Pittsburgh flight; and Hassan Sader, 36, from Virginia, who was ejected from American Airlines Baltimore-Chicago flight.

The ACLU noted that as early as Sept. 21, 2001, the Department of Transportation (DOT) had cautioned major airlines not to discriminate against passengers based on race, color or national or ethnic origin. The DOT repeated the warning in October: It is important to re-emphasize that in performing our critical duties, we may not rely on generalized stereotypes or attitudes or beliefs about the propensity of members of any racial, ethnic, religious or national origin group to engage in unlawful activity.

In a separate case, Mohammed Ali Ahmed of Austin, Texas, also sued American Airlines in federal court, alleging a pattern of discrimination. He is seeking direct and punitive damages on grounds of being ejected on Sept. 29 from a flight and humiliated before his children.

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“Four U.S. airlines sued for bias in offloading passengers,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed March 27, 2023,