Southwest Apologizes for Removing Muslim Passenger From Flight
Southwest Airlines is apologizing after a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf was pulled off a flight on Sunday because a flight attendant thought she heard her say into her cell phone: "It's a go."
Irum Abbasi, a San Jose University graduate student, was slated to fly at 8:15 a.m. from San Diego when she hurriedly finished a phone call to a Verizon representative by saying sharply, "I have to go,'' Edgar Hopida, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, tells AOL Travel News.
The call prompted a flight attendant to report that Abbasi seemed suspicious and the captain announced the flight would be delayed. Minutes later, TSA agents boarded the flight and escorted the student off the plane.
"She went through the security check. She went through the secondary check because of her headscarf, which was fine. We learned that the flight attendant thought she said, 'It's a go.' The flight attendant indicated she did not feel comfortable with the student on the flight,'' says Hopida.
CAIR says the incident left Hopida "emotionally distraight and crying." The organization held a press conference demanding an apology from the airline at San Diego International Airport early this morning.
"I tried to explain that I have a lot of work to do, and they still said, 'We'll put you on the next flight.' They did not question me. I even handed over my purse and cell phone for inspection and they didn't even touch it," Abbasi tells a local news station.
"In hindsight, we wish that we could have talked to the customer prior to the flight departing so that we could clear her to travel as scheduled. We sincerely apologize for the customer's inconvenience, and we regret that she was unable to travel as scheduled,'' the airline said in a statement to AOL Travel News.
"We accommodated her on the next flight to San Jose, and we issued her a travel voucher as a gesture of goodwill for her inconvenience,'' the statement continues. "We are attempting to follow up with the customer directly to apologize again for her inconvenience."
The student was able to fly to San Jose later that night.
(Libby Zay contributed to this report).
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