New law requires airlines to provide non-discrimination training
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 was signed into law on Friday, October 5, 2018. The bill includes section 407, titled “Training policies regarding racial, ethnic, and religious nondiscrimination,” which outlines requirements for improving air carriers’ nondiscrimination policies and practices.
The Arab American Institute (AAI), which has sought such improvements and protections for years, welcomes the passage of this provision of the legislation as an important step towards ending discrimination by airlines and enhancing civil rights protections for all.
“Airline passenger profiling and discrimination, including the removal of passengers from airplanes, is happening with disturbing frequency and with little consequence to air carriers,” stated AAI Executive Director Maya Berry.
“We saw cases of people profiled and targeted after they had cleared airport security simply because they were Arab or Muslim, or they were perceived to be by their fellow passengers or airline employees. When we complained, we learned these cases of blatant discrimination have been handled so poorly that there is more data available on mishandled luggage than there is on the number of people removed from flights because of profiling tied to alleged ‘security’ issues. This is simply unacceptable.”
Arab Americans have faced countless episodes of profiling while simply exercising their right to travel. In 2006, an Arab American was denied the right to board a JetBlue flight until he changed his shirt, which had Arabic on it. In 2011, another was removed in handcuffs from a Frontier flight after flight attendants alerted the pilot that she and two men were “possibly of Arab descent.” In 2016, an Iraqi student was removed from a Southwest flight for simply speaking Arabic. Later that same year, an Italian economist was removed from an American Airlines flight for allegedly reading Arabic on his computer, though in reality it was calculus.
These incidents led AAI to seek a remedy to address the problem. Working with the office of Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey, an amendment was introduced in 2016 which served as the basis for what passed last week.
Section 407 of the new law specifically requires the Comptroller General to report to Congress within the next six months on “each air carrier’s training policy for its employees and contractors regarding racial, ethnic, and religious nondiscrimination.” The section also requires the Secretary of Transportation to “develop and disseminate to air carriers best practices necessary to improve” these nondiscrimination trainings, and specifically based on consultations with “passengers of diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds [and] national organizations that represent impacted communities.”
“These cases require strong, decisive action by our country’s air carriers and the FAA. While more must be done to ensure accountability for instances of discrimination by airlines, we are grateful for Senator Booker’s leadership and the passage of his amendment is an important first step toward ending the discriminatory treatment our communities face,” added Berry.
Founded in 1985, the Arab American Institute (AAI) is a nonprofit organization committed to the civic and political empowerment of Americans of Arab descent. AAI provides policy, research and public affairs services to support a broad range of community activities. For more information please visit aaiusa.org
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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