Sikh actor blocked by Mexican airline over turban satisfied with apology

MEXICO CITY -- An Indian-American actor and designer who wasn't allowed to board a Mexico City-to-New York flight after refusing to remove his turban said Tuesday that he is satisfied with an apology from the airline.

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Waris Ahluwalia said he is now waiting for Aeromexico to implement special training on how to treat Sikh passengers, for whom the headgear carries deep religious significance.

"We're just a few steps away from a lot of hugs," Ahluwalia told The Associated Press.

Aeromexico issued a statement Tuesday saying: "We apologize to Mr. Waris Ahluwalia for the unfortunate experience he had with one of our security guards during the boarding process prior to his flight to New York at the Mexico City International Airport."

"This incident inspires us to make sure that we strengthen the customer service protocols of our safety personnel in respectful accordance with the cultural and religious values of our customers," the statement said.

Ahluwalia welcomed the airline's apology. "We've gotten the apology and I'm grateful, and thanks to them for doing that," he said.

"The next step is to do the training" for inspecting Sikhs and others with religious headwear, he added.

The turban is part of the required dress for Sikh men. In addition, Sikh men and women are forbidden to cut their hair.

Ahluwalia had reported he was trying to board a flight from Mexico City to New York City on Monday when he was told he couldn't get on "because of my turban."

Aeromexico had said Monday night that it is "committed to transporting all its passengers without regard to their religion, social status or gender ... but the airline is obliged to comply with the federal rules determined by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for inspecting selected passengers travelling to the United States."

However, U.S. guidelines put into effect in 2010 no longer require air passengers to remove turbans if doing so makes them uncomfortable.

Many members of the Sikh community have objected to the practice of frisking Sikh turbans, calling it unnecessary in a world with machines for body scanning and metal detection.


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