02 October 2006

United We Discriminate

I've been incensed at Southwest Airlines for its mistreatment of anti-W passengers, and JetBlue Airways for its mistreatment of an Iraqi peace activist in my social circles. Now, what until now has been my favorite airline appears to have joined this hall of shame.

CBC News

In a nutshell, a Canadian doctor was saying a routine Muslim prayer, and as a result, was removed from a United flight in Denver, at the complaints of a drunk. Apparently, at United, a drunk is less of a safety hazard than the practitioner of a non-Christian religion (or no religion). Despite the fact that there have been many drunken air rage incidents on board United flights over the years. (So much so, that I'm including one in my novel.)

Sure, it was the Muslims that destroyed United's flights 175 and 93. But those were radical Muslims. There are radical people - Muslims, Christians, and otherwise - who live right in cities served by United's network, and could cause just as much of a carnage. Besides, if a routine prayer scares you, then maybe you should charter a private plane instead of flying a commercial airline.

United's executives are corrupt. However, its rank-and-file employees have kept me coming back - until now. Besides, United had been considered a leader in extending equal treatment for its employees - first blacks, then women (United has more women pilots than anyone else), then gays (another reason why my novel partially takes place at United - with a transgender lesbian flight attendant as the protagonist). I have 120,000 United frequent flier miles at this time, and even during last weekend's Mariah Carey concert, I was reminded that my trips between her and her fans half a world away were made on United flights. For this kind of event to take place there, and for no apology to come out even after acknowledgement of overreaction, is way out of line and unforgivable.

I'm hearing even more unsavory airline stories along these lines. Northwest is accused of racism, and American had a Christian pilot who tried to proselytize to the passengers - and scared them instead. Now, I don't even know which airlines are okay to fly anymore. Maybe I need to drive within the US, and use foreign airlines otherwise. In the meantime, United will definitely hear from me on this issue. I hope my frequent flier miles will give my message much needed weight.