I was supposed to be in Costa Rica this week. Instead, I am still in College Station, Texas. Mostly because I am not Muslim. Sounds weird? Read on.
My flight on Delta Airlines was supposed to leave on Friday at 5:45 AM from Houston International Airport. I got there about an hour before departure and they stuck me on a self check-in line. I tried getting the staff’s attention but they didn’t seem interested in helping anyone. During my time there, I saw stretches of as long as 10 minutes during which the check-in counter was completely unmanned with a line of over 10 groups of passengers waiting.
After about 20 minutes of waiting on the self check-in I finally managed to get to the check-in kiosk. When I try to check-in it says it can’t do the check-in because I don’t have an US passport and I have to get to the manned check-in counter. Now they stick me at the end of the manned check-in counter which is taking 10 minutes or more to check-in each passenger. As I inch closer to the front of the line a new guy shows up to take over the counter, and simply leave the counter and starts walking around the line of people waiting for check-in.
He looks distinctly south Asian seems to be curiously interested in the diaspora in the passenger line. He walks up a group in front of me and two groups (all south Asian) behind me. He asks both of them where they are going to. Then he proceeds to ask “Hindu or Muslim?” It left me a little more than surprised! When they say Muslim, he says he’s Iqbal from Pakistan and just pulls them out of the line and proceeds to expedite their check-in for a flight that over an hour away while mine is in 30 minutes.
I try to get his attention but he doesn’t seem to care. Finally after he checks them in, he comes up to me. I try to check in and he says “Sorry, you are too late for the flight. I’m afraid you have missed it.” And this is my fault how? He says “You should have been here 2 hrs before the departure” Never mind the fact that I was passed over for two groups of over 5-6 passengers each. And then when I ask about reschedule he just scorns at us and walks to the next Muslim group behind us!
At this point I was shocked! What the hell! I really was out of words to verbalize my thoughts. Finally the lady in the First Class check-in section noticed that I had been waiting for over 40 minutes and calls us over to see if she could help us. By then it was too late for her to help us with anything. She was trying to be as helpful as she could, but the damage was done. All other tickets/flights to Costa Rica was too expensive for me to afford. I was enraged at the discrimination and wanted to speak with the person in-charge. Guess who was in-charge! Yup, it was Iqbal! So much for redress. In fact, the staff there went so far as saying that they have no obligation to reschedule my flight or give me a single penny of what I had spent buying the ticket, and it was their generosity that they were even entertaining a reschedule at higher prices. (Behold the glory of deregulated capitalism).
With all options exhausted, all I could do was drive back to College Station, all the the while wondering “If only I was Muslim….”