(AP) — A Sikh advocacy group has launched a free mobile application today that allows travellers to complain immediately to the government if they feel they have been treated unfairly by airport screeners.
The group, Sikh Coalition, launched the FlyRights app which had fielded two complaints by 10 a.m. on Monday.
The first complaint came from a woman who said she felt mistreated after she disclosed to a screener that she was carrying breast milk. A man who is Sikh filed the second complaint, saying he was subjected to extra security even though he had not set off any alarms.
Coalition program director, Amardeep Singh said the woman's complaint was based on gender and the man's was on religion.
Singh said the Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) were notified of the app before its launch. The agencies agreed to allow the app to use the agencies' system for submitting the complaints.
TSA said in a statement that it does not profile passengers on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion and is continually working with communities, including The Sikh Coalition, "to help us understand unique passenger concerns." The agency said it supports "efforts to gather passenger feedback about the screening process."
The app, available for iPhone and Android phones, was conceived in response to complaints from Sikhs in the U.S, who since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are routinely subjected to additional inspection, Singh said. Some are made to remove their turbans, which Sikhs wear for religious reasons, Singh said.
The app is intended for everyone who feels they are racially profiled or subjected to other unfair treatment. It is also intended to provide better data on how often such incidents occur.
President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Wade Henderson, who was also instrumental in the launch of the app believes the shooting of Trayvon Martin, immigration laws in Alabama and Arizona, and the anniversary of the Rodney King trial has never been more readily apparent how the practice of racial profiling impacts all Americans.
After completing screening, a person can go to the app and click on the "report" button. The app will automatically fill in the person's name, phone number and email address. The app asks questions such as race and name of airport, as well as the basis of the complaint, such as religion or gender.
It has "submit" and "share" buttons to post on social media that a complaint was filed. The app also contains information on rights of passengers and TSA procedures.
The Sikh Coalition gets hundreds of complaints of unfair treatment and profiling, Singh said. By contrast, he said, the Department of Homeland Security said in its last report to Congress on civil rights and civil liberties that 11 people in the US submitted complaints in the first six month of 2011.
"My hope is that this app will exponentially increase the number of complaints filed with the TSA, flood the system so they get that this is a problem. For too long the Transportation Security Administration has been able to tell Congress this is not an issue, nobody's complaining," Singh said.
Passengers can ask to speak to supervisors or customer support managers at an airport, contact the TSA Contact Center, submit feedback through "Talk-to-TSA" online or file a civil rights complaint through its website, the agency said.