In another disgusting incident of Islamophobia in the United States, two Muslim women were removed from American Airlines flight 2239 because an attendant felt “threatened” and “unsafe” by their presence.
Niala Khalil, a multimedia journalist with the government-funded Voice of America, was traveling with a friend who works for the federal government, when the incident occurred. The pair was on a delayed flight from Miami, Florida, to Washington, D.C.
“My friend and I were removed from American Airlines (AA) flight 2239 traveling from Miami International Airport (MIA) to Washington-Reagan National Airport (DCA) because the main crew airline attendant felt 'unsafe' by our presence,” Khalil wrote in a length Facebook post on Tuesday, detailing the incident. “Yup, the only two apparent Muslim girls on the plane got kicked off. Not sure if it was my friend's statement 'evil-eye' bracelet, the fact that I was watching a Pakistani drama on my iPhone, or our obvious Muslim last names that made him uncomfortable, but here's the kicker, we both work for the United States federal government.”
Khalil, who was born in Boston, said the plane was on the tarmac for more than five hours, during which time the crew offered passengers only one glass of water and a bag of pretzels. A flight attendant told them there would be no more food or beverage and that they were not allowed to purchase in-flight food, or deplane to get food and use the airport restrooms.
When Khalil’s friend and a white male passenger seated behind her began talking about the delay, a flight attendant approached them and told the woman, “If you have a problem, you can get off the plane.”
The friend, who was calm and composed, told the flight attendant that she was just “stating facts.” He then threatened to remove her from the flight “for instigating other passengers” — despite the fact she wasn’t the one who had started the conversation.
“I was flabbergasted by the whole time,” Khalil wrote. She asked a female flight attendant for the male flight attendant’s name so they could lodge a complaint about his behavior. The female crewmember told them to point out the man when they next see him.
Her friend “took a photo of the male attendant” so they could get his name, but another attendant, who was walking by, said that it was a federal offense. While taking a photo on a plane is not a federal offense, airlines have the right to stop people from taking their pictures without consent.
The passengers deleted the picture (and thankfully saved it in the delete folder), but AA customer relations representative, Lourdes Broco, shortly boarded the plane and asked them to follow her to the front, where several armed air marshals and Miami-Dade police officers were waiting for them.
Although the matter was quickly sorted out and Broco realized the attendant, identified only as Roger, has exaggerated, Khalil and her friend felt like victims of racial bias.
“Although we were encouraged to document the incident to AA customer relations, we still experienced insult and embarrassment as two minority Muslim-American women. For being such a ‘threat’ to an AA attendant, it’s telling that the Miami-Dade police officers joked with us and posed for this picture with the ‘pretty harmless’ airplane menaces,” Mohammad continued.
The airline offered the pair $200 credit for future travel and a $24 food voucher. However, the damage was already done.
American Airlines, over the past few months, has made headlines for similar incidents.
Not too long ago, a Muslim passenger, Mohamed Ahmed Radwan, was allegedly removed from an American Airlines flight because an employee was feeling a little “uncomfortable” after harassing him in front of everyone.