The airline says they have "no policy" on serving unopened vs. opened cans
Tahera Ahmad, a chaplain at Northwestern University, probably wasn’t expecting to gain a global audience when she vented about her in-flight experience during a recent trip.
On Friday, Ahmad, who is Muslim, claimed she had been mistreated because of her religion during a flight on United Airlines.
“I am in tears of humiliation from discrimination,” she wrote. “The flight attendant asked me what I would like to drink and I requested a can of Diet Coke. She brought me a can that was open so I requested an unopened can due to hygienic reasons. She said no one has consumed from the drink, but I requested an unopened can. She responded, ‘Well I’m sorry I just can’t give you an unopened can so no Diet Coke for you.’ She then brought the man sitting next to me a can of UNOPENED beer. So I asked her again why she refused to give me an UNOPENED can of Diet Coke. She said, ‘We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a WEAPON on the plane.’ ”
“So I told her that she was clearly discriminating against me because she gave the man next to me an unopened can of beer. She looked at his can, quickly grabbed it and opened it and said, ‘It’s so you don’t use it as a weapon.’ ”
Ahmad’s tale doesn’t end there. When she asked other passengers if they “witnessed this discriminatory and disgusting behavior,” Ahmad says a man cursed her out and made offensive comments about her religion.
“[He said] ‘you Moslem, you need to shut the F— up.’ I said, ‘What?!’ He then leaned over from his seat, looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘Yes you know you would use it as a WEAPON so shut the f— up.’ I felt the hate in his voice and his raging eyes,” she wrote.
“I can’t help but cry on this plane because I thought people would defend me and say something. Some people just shook their heads in dismay.”
A spokesperson for United Airlines told PEOPLE in a statement that they are trying to get in contact with Ahmad about the incident.
“United is a company that strongly supports diversity and inclusion, and we and our partners do not discriminate against our employees or customers. We are reaching out directly to Ms. Ahmad to get a better understanding of what occurred during the flight. We are also discussing the matter that Ms. Ahmad describes with Shuttle America, our regional partner that operated the flight.
“We look forward to speaking with Ms. Ahmad and hope to have the opportunity to welcome her back.”
Ahmad’s story quickly went viral, with people using the hashtag #unitedfortahera on Twitter to show their support and lodge complaints at United.
When asked if it is United Airlines’ policy to not serve unopened beverages out of safety concerns, the spokesperson directed PEOPLE to Shuttle America, who operated the flight. A representative for Shuttle America tells PEOPLE in a statement that they have “no policy difference in serving alcoholic or non-alcoholic canned beverages to passengers, no differentiation between opened and unopened cans, and no policy on speculation on what a can may/may not be used for.”
“The flight attendant on board Shuttle America flight 3504 attempted several times to accommodate Ms. Ahmad’s beverage request after a misunderstanding regarding a can of diet soda,” they continued. “The inflight crew met with Ms. Ahmad after the flight arrived in Washington to provide assistance and further discuss the matter.”
Ahmad did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Earlier this week United got in hot water on social media after Canadian singer Sarah Blackwood was kicked off a flight because her 23-month-old son was crying. In a statement to PEOPLE, SkyWest Airlines, which was operating to flight for United, claimed that the child was not seated before departure and posed a safety concern. Blackwood responded and said she was in a window seat and her son was “not even close to an aisle.”