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Airline Apologizes After Muslim Chaplain Denied Unopened Can of Soda

by Elizabeth Chuck /  / Updated 
Tahera Ahmad
A Facebook post by Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim chaplain about being denied an unopened can of soda on a United Airlines Flight has sparked an uproar on social media.via Facebook

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A flight attendant involved in a kerfuffle over a can of Diet Coke requested by a Muslim woman will no longer serve customers, United Airlines said in an apology to the passenger on Wednesday.

Muslim chaplain Tahera Ahmad's story of being denied an unopened can of soda mid-flight gained attention after she wrote about it Friday on Facebook through "tears of humiliation from discrimination."

"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," Ahmad wrote.

Related: Muslim Chaplain Tahera Ahmad Denied Diet Coke on United Flight Claims Discrimination

Ahmad says the flight attendant refused, telling her unopened cans could be used as weapons and it was against policy to hand them out. When Ahmad pointed out that the flight attendant had given the man next to her an unopened can of beer, she says the flight attendant repeated, "It's so you don't use it as a weapon."

Instead of getting support from onlookers, a man an aisle away from Ahmad mentioned her religion and yelled, "Yes you know you would use it as a WEAPON so shut the f**k up," she wrote.

Tahera Ahmad
A Facebook post by Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim chaplain about being denied an unopened can of soda on a United Airlines Flight has sparked an uproar on social media.via Facebook

The incident on the Chicago to Washington, D.C. flight — operated by Shuttle America — was deemed a "misunderstanding" in a statement by United Airlines on Sunday. Wednesday was the first time United offered Ahmad an apology.

"While United did not operate the flight, Ms. Ahmad was our customer and we apologize to her for what occurred on the flight," it said in a statement. "After investigating this matter, United has ensured that the flight attendant, a Shuttle America employee, will no longer serve United customers."

The statement went on to say that United doesn't tolerate "behavior that is discriminatory — or that appears to be discriminatory —" and said employees who interact with customers are trained on customer service and cultural sensitivity training.

Shuttle America is owned by Republic Airways, which contracts with United. It was unclear from United's statement if the flight attendant had been fired or just banned from United planes, or just not "serving customers" on planes.

Ahmad, who is the director of interfaith engagement and associated chaplain at Northwestern University, did not immediately return a request for comment from NBC News.

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