Delta has been fined $50,000 (£38,422) by the US Transportation Department for allegedly discriminating against Muslim passengers.
The airline was found to have denied boarding to three travellers even after they’d been cleared by security during extra checks.
According to a consent order, on two separate instances in July 2016 the captain on Delta flights overruled the airline’s own security staff by barring passengers.
US citizens Nazia and Faisal Ali were returning from a 10-year wedding anniversary trip to Paris when they were asked to get off Delta flight 229 to Cincinnati.
Another passenger had told a flight attendant that the couple’s behaviour was making them feel “very uncomfortable and nervous”, although they did not say why.
The flight attendant said that as she walked through the cabin she saw Faisal “texting on his cellphone using the word ‘Allah’ several times,“ according to the Transportation Department.
The couple were removed and subjected to extra security questioning, before being cleared to reboard. However, the captain refused.
”They were just kicked off this flight without any explanation,“ said Sana Hassan, a lawyer acting on behalf of the Alis.
”To be treated in this way and be marginalised in this way simply because of your Muslim appearance was disheartening for them.“
She added: ”Really, they were just concerned about this happening to other Muslims.”
A similar incident occurred the same month, when a Muslim man due to fly from Amsterdam to Kennedy International Airport was removed from the flight following passenger concerns.
The man appeared to receive a package from someone else onboard of “similar ethnicity” before changing seats.
He was cleared by additional security checks and reboarded the plane, but the captain returned to the gate and told cabin crew to kick him off regardless and book him onto another flight.
The Transportation Department ruled that, in both instances, Delta crew failed to follow correct security protocol and their actions in barring the passengers involved were discriminatory.
In addition to the fine, Delta has also been ordered to send certain teams on civil rights training.
“While we understand that our best customer service was not reflected in how the incident was handled, we disagree with the Department of Transportation’s contention that Delta engaged in discriminatory conduct,” a Delta spokesperson said in a statement.
“For that reason, we have worked to improve our investigative process since these incidents and we have supporting programmes, policies, training and procedures that back up our commitments in this area.”
The Independent has contacted Delta for further comment.