N.C.-to-D.C. Flight Delayed as United Arab Emirates Students Rescreened

Flight delayed about five hours

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A five-hour flight delay apparently was caused by a passenger's concern over several foreign students on board. (Published Friday, Nov 25, 2011)

    A Thanksgiving flight to D.C. was delayed about five hours after several students from the United Arab Emirates were detained for questioning in Charlotte.

    When the flight arrived at Ronald Reagan National Airport Thursday night, passengers told News4 one passenger thought the group of seven men and one woman was trying to hijack the plane so the pilot called security. The students said security officials questioned them about whether they had military training, News4's Julie Carey reported. The detained students were allowed back on the plane after rescreening.

    The students, who had been recognized as future leaders by the United Arab Emirates Embassy and invited to a conference in D.C., said they should not have been detained and they want an apology.

    The United Arab Emirates Embassy issued a statement late Friday evening saying in part: "The situation that occurred in Charlotte is regrettable. However, we are pleased that the UAE nationals were able to eventually arrive safely at their destination.

    "All of the students traveling on the flight to Washington had valid US visas and were eligible to travel in the US. To that end, the UAE Embassy is eager to receive information from the TSA on the specific circumstances that led to the situation in Charlotte. Furthermore, we request that the TSA clarify its policy for UAE Embassy officials, so that similar incidents can be prevented in the future. "

    US Airways confirmed Flight 1768 was delayed for a security reason and everything was deemed to be OK, but the airline did not confirm the story of a hijacking concern. Nor did TSA confirm the Muslim complaint, saying only that it was a customer service issue.

    A spokeswoman for the airport in Charlotte said the flight crew reported suspicious activity to airport police who then responded.

    US Airways declined further comment.

    The delay caused some passengers to miss their Thanksgiving dinners, Carey reported, and several were sympathetic to the students. Others said the delay was ensuring a safe flight.

    The Council for American-Islamic Relations is looking in to the incident.

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