Two Muslim passengers were kicked off of an American Airlines flight because they made the flight crew feel “unsafe” after they talked to another passenger about their lack of food and water, the Independent is reporting.
The two passengers, both American Muslim women, were on board American Airlines Flight 2239 from Miami to Washington Tuesday night, waiting to depart. For reasons that aren’t relevant to this post, the flight was delayed, and the two women had been sitting there for about five hours when the incident took place.
In a Facebook post, one of the women, Niala Khalil, described what happened.
“After over 5 hours aboard the grounded plane, we were only offered one glass of water, a bag of pretzels, and told there would be no more food or beverage. A flight attendant informed us we were not allowed to purchase in-flight food unless we were in the air and we were denied the right to deplane to get food or use the airport restrooms.”
Khalil says that another passenger, whom she described as a “white male,” struck up a conversation with her and her companion, who has asked not to be identified. As the two Muslim women and the white male discussed their lack of food and water, a flight attendant came by and told them, “If you have a problem, you can leave.”
Khalil tried to take a picture of the flight attendant, who wasn’t wearing a badge and refused to give them her name. She was then told that taking a picture of a flight attendant is a federal crime, and the two women were told to follow a flight attendant off of the plane.
According to a May 2016 Huffington Post report, it is not, in fact, a federal crime to take photographs of a flight crew. However, airlines can set internal policies forbidding passengers from doing so — something which American Airlines has done. And if a member of a flight crew asks you not to take photographs and you continue to do so, you can be asked to leave the plane for failing to follow the crew member’s instructions.
Once they got back into the airport, they were greeted by air marshals and Miami-Dade police officers.
Based on a tweet Khalil posted later, it appears that the Miami cops found humor in the situation — they posed for a picture with Kahlil and her companion.
We were removed from #AmericanAir flight 2239 traveling from MIA-DCA bcuz the airline attendant felt “unsafe” us! pic.twitter.com/hoRTBC94MS
— Niala Khalil (@nialakhalil) August 3, 2016
For their trouble, the two women were given seats on a later flight, a $200 credit, and a $24 voucher for food and drinks.
Speaking to the Independent, American Airlines spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello said that the women were removed from the plane for not obeying a flight attendant’s orders.
“This was a case of non-compliance. At no moment did discrimination come up, according to the passenger relations representative who was there.”
Members of flight crews have almost unlimited discretion when it comes to removing passengers from flights, according to a May, 2016, Fortune report. The culprit is a provision in FAA regulations that says that passengers can’t “insult, threaten, or interfere with [a crew member].” Flight crews have interpreted that provision as giving them the latitude to eject a passenger for just about any reason, says Fortune writer Christopher Elliott.
In fact, this is the second incident in just a few weeks where a Muslim passenger was kicked off of an American Airlines flight for discretionary reasons. In July, according to this Inquisitr report, Mohamed Ahmed Radwan was removed from an American Airlines flight after he complained about the behavior of a flight attendant. Radwan says that the flight attendant went to a microphone three times and pointed him out to other passengers, saying that he (the flight attendant) “would be watching [Radwan].” When Radwan complained to another member of the flight crew, he was told he was making the crew feel “uncomfortable” and was told to leave the plane.
Do you believe Niala Khalil and were friend were kicked off of an American Airlines flight because they’re Muslims?
[Image via Shutterstock/Art Konovalov]