A flight from Chicago to Burlington was delayed for more than an hour after the flight’s crew refused to take off without additional security screening.

Passengers on the flight included a group of Afghan men visiting Vermont whose interpreter suspected the group, dressed in traditional clothing, triggered the security scare.

“We always, always attract a lot of attention. This time was not an exception,” said Wais Ahmad, an interpreter who was traveling among a delegation of nine, including five wearing traditional Afghan clothing. The group was coming to Vermont to learn about democracy and community development as part of a four-city tour of the United States sponsored by the State Department. Their trip to Vermont is through the Vermont Council on World Affairs.

The flight was United 868, a non-stop flight, that was scheduled to depart at 1:10 p.m. Central Daylight Time and arrive in Burlington at 4:20 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Boarding was delayed, however, and passengers heard a number of reasons for the delay.

Passenger David Williams said United personnel addressed passengers several times as they waited to board the flight. First, Williams recounted, United agents said a problem with the plane’s kitchen was delaying departure. Next, passengers were told United’s flight crew had logged too many hours and couldn’t fly the leg to Burlington. . .

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for Council on American-Islamic Relations, was not surprised to hear that the security incident in Chicago may have been triggered by the Afghan men, especially in light of last week’s terrorist attacks in Scotland and London.

“Unfortunately it’s all too familiar,” Hooper said. “We tend to see spikes in this kind of thing immediately following international incidents related to violence or terrorism in which Muslims are alleged to be involved. We are actually awaiting more of these things.”


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