Canada's primary airline is facing allegations of racial prejudice following a questionable security incident. Air Canada is being questioned by the family of a 12-year-old girl after staff allegedly pulled the girl aside and forced her to remove her hijab at the gate. The girl had passed through airport security at the time of the inspection inciting questions about the motive behind the last-minute search.
According to a report by City News, it was the first time that the girl, Fatima Abdelrahman, had travelled alone. Abdelrahman was flying to Canada from San Francisco to take part in a squash competition. “The person at the gate asked me to take my scarf off even though I already passed security and they had checked my passport,” she told the media outlet in an interview.
“They took me to a corner, and I said, ‘I feel like this is an open space, what about a room?’ And they said ‘no, no, no one is here.’ Even though it was a corner and an open space, and they quickly, quickly take off your scarf, let’s go,” she continued.
Abdelrahman also stated that by the time she boarded the flight, she was lost and couldn’t find her teammates or coach. The incident occurred on Aug. 1 at the San Francisco Airport International Airport and was reportedly handled by an Air Canada agent.
Fatima’s sister later reached out to the airline on Twitter, blasting the company for "ruining" her sibling's first experience flying alone.
“Air Canada pls explain why you pulled aside my 12yr old sister for flight 758 making her take off her hijab AT THE GATE?? AFTER she already passed security?? Thx for ruining her experience as the first U.S. National Team Squash player in Hijab + her first time traveling alone,” the tweet read.
. @AirCanada pls explain why you pulled aside my 12yr old sister for flight 758 making her take off her hijab AT TH… https://t.co/FigRKjON8T— Sabreen (@Sabreen)1564683839.0
The tweet started a social media firestorm with many people weighing in on the company’s alleged prejudice:
@Sabreen_magdy @AirCanada @AirCanada do you normally subject your 12 year old solo passengers to unexpected additio… https://t.co/xIRC2DZg1o— Farah Abu-Khater (@Farah Abu-Khater)1564703649.0
@Sabreen_magdy @AirCanada Would you make a nun pull off her habit? Disgraceful. full out racism right there, good job @AirCanada— sarah (@sarah)1564719188.0
@Sabreen_magdy @AirCanada WTF @AirCanada?— Physically Distancing Serra (@Physically Distancing Serra)1564772937.0
@quitetheparadox @Sabreen_magdy @rachel_thorn_en @AirCanada Racism pure and simple. I hope the gate agent is severely reprimanded— Venessa #Legacy (@Venessa #Legacy)1564741238.0
@Sabreen_magdy @AirCanada AirCanada is one of the worst airlines when it comes to things like this— nour (@nour)1564684868.0
Air Canada later responded to the Tweet:
“Hello Sabreen, we are truly sorry to hear about this situation, and we certainly understand your concerns. May you, please DM us your daughter's booking reference so we can better follow-up?”
@Sabreen_magdy Hello Sabreen, we are truly sorry to hear about this situation and we certainly understand your conc… https://t.co/nFVI2vL97q— Air Canada (@Air Canada)1564685224.0
However, the company mistakenly claimed that Fatima was Sabreen's daughter, which sparked backlash:
@AirCanada @Sabreen_magdy "We are sorry we did something horrible, but only because you publicly blasted us on Twit… https://t.co/OZL2vsdoFh— Selena Vyle (@Selena Vyle)1564749466.0
@AirCanada @Sabreen_magdy You must not understand Sabreen’s concerns all that well; you didn’t even take the time t… https://t.co/alvy3Pn7ho— Sharon 🧶🐈 (@Sharon 🧶🐈)1564727056.0
@AirCanada @Sabreen_magdy Lmao they clearly read your tweet throughly, “Daughter”— Asma (@Asma)1564687221.0
Air Canada insisted that it has taken Abdelrahman’s feedback seriously. The company is working on preventing future incidents.