merican Airlines is investigating after one of its pilots allegedly asked passengers to identify themselves as Christians so non-Christians could talk to them.
Tim Kincaid, a spokeman for American Airlines, said the incident happened on Friday, Feb. 6, on Flight 34 from Los Angeles to New York.
“It’s under investigation,” Kincaid told CNN. “We’ve had some complaints about it.”
Kincaid said the pilot reportedly asked Christian passengers to raise their hands before suggesting that other passengers should discuss Christianity with those passengers. The pilot, who had just returned from a mission to Costa Rica, also said he would be available at the end of the flight for further discussion.
Passengers on the flight said the pilot also said those who weren't Christians were "crazy".
“We’re investing to learn the facts,” said Kincaid. “That would be against our policy if it did happen.”
In a statement, the airline said: "It falls along the lines of a personal level of sharing that may not be appropriate for one of our employees to do while on the job."
Jen Dorsey, a passenger on the flight, told CNN's American Morning, that "we were just at the beginning of our flight. The pilot came on to greet everyone and give his comments for the morning, and he said he'd recently been on a mission trip, and he'd like all the Christians to please raise their hands."
Another passenger, Karla Austin, said no passengers did raise their hands when asked by the pilot. She said the pilot asked passengers to look around at each other and use their four-and-a-half hour flight wisely or "just sit back and watch the movie."
She said passengers were shocked — some reached for their mobile phones and others used the on-flight phones.
"Just given this history of what's happened on planes in this country, anything can happen at this point," she said.
Passengers complained to the flight attendants who relayed the concerns to the pilot. About 45 minutes into the flight, the pilot came back on and apolgized to the crew.
"He came on and said, "I want to apologize for my comments earlier. I think I really threw the flight crew off a little bit, and they are getting a lot of flack for the things I said. So I want to apologize to my flight crew,'" said Austin.