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Airline says there is no open-can rule, after Muslim denied soda

Republic Airways said Monday that it doesn't don't have rules on whether drinks are served opened or not, after a Muslim woman was denied an unopened soda.
A plane comes in to land. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)
A plane comes in to land.

When a Muslim woman was denied an unopened can of soda on a United Airlines flight, she was allegedly told it was against policy — but the company that was operating that flight said Monday that they don't have rules on whether drinks are served opened or not.

Tahera Ahmad, a 31-year-old associate chaplain at Northwestern University in Illinois, claimed in a post on Facebook Friday that she was discriminated against when a flight attendant refused to give her an unopened can of Diet Coke but then gave a nearby passenger an unopened can of beer.

She wrote that the flight attendant told her: "'We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a weapon on the plane.'"

The incident was taken to another, ugly, level by a passenger allegedly then spewing hate at Ahmad, saying, "'you Moslem (sic), you need to shut the f--k up. ... Yes, you know you would use it as a weapon, so shut the f--k up,'" according to her Facebook post.

RELATED: Muslim chaplain denied diet Coke on United flight claims discrimination

The United Airlines flight, from Chicago to Washington, D.C., was operated by Shuttle America, which is owned by Republic Airways Holdings, which said in a statement Monday that the company doesn't enforce rules about serving unopened cans.

"There is no policy difference in serving alcoholic or non-alcoholic canned beverages to passengers. There is no differentiation between opened and unopened beverages, and there is no policy suggesting what may or may not be done with a container," the Republic Airways statement read.

The statement, like one from United Airlines released Sunday, called the incident a "misunderstanding" and said the crew apologized to Ahmad after the flight "for not delivering the service our customers expect."

Bob Birge, the director of corporate communications for Republic Airways, told NBC News that the flight attendant involved in the incident "has a strong track record of continued superior customer service."

He would not say whether the flight attendant would face disciplinary action, saying an inquiry about what action the company might take "assumes the flight attendant did something that would warrant disciplinary action."

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