- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

DETROIT (AP) — Northwest Airlines yesterday tried to quell a fight over charges of ethnic profiling by apologizing yesterday to a group of 40 Muslims who were barred from boarding a Michigan-bound plane in Germany.

The airline said it will reimburse the passengers for hotel costs and other flights they were forced to take on their way back from the hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Andrea Newman, senior vice president for government relations for Northwest Airlines Corp., said the Jan. 7 incident resulted from a series of mistakes involving a German travel agency, the baggage handlers for the previous chartered flight from Saudi Arabia and misleading information on a printed ticket that the passengers had received.

The apology was reported first yesterday on the Web site of the Detroit News.

Mrs. Newman said she will look into why the connecting flight from Frankfurt, Germany, was not held at the gate until the passengers were cleared for boarding.

Northwest originally said the pilgrims arrived only 20 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart, which is outside airline and international rules regarding overseas flights. But the pilgrims said they arrived at least 90 minutes before departure — well within the regulations.

Mrs. Newman said she will travel to the Detroit area tomorrow to meet with the pilgrims, including Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini, the cleric at the Islamic Center of America.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement the group welcomes the airline’s apology and offer “as a positive step toward addressing the concerns of the Muslim passengers.”

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