- Two Muslim men said their American Airlines flight was cancelled because the crew “didn’t feel comfortable” flying with them, according to a Dallas Morning News report.
- The two men, who knew each other but were travelling separately, said that they waved to each other while boarding, which made a crewmember suspicious.
- The flight was cancelled, and the two men were interrogated and searched by law-enforcement before being booked on another flight.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Two Muslim men said that their American Airlines flight was cancelled and they were harassed by law-enforcement because the flight’s crew “didn’t feel comfortable” after they waved hello to each other, the Dallas Morning News reported on Thursday.
The men, Abderraoof Alkhawaldeh, a motivational speaker, and Issam Abdallah, a nonprofit director, said they were boarding a flight from Birmingham, Alabama, to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, on September 14 when they greeted one another.
The two men were travelling separately to the same event in Birmingham, and were on their way home. They said that they knew each other from their local Muslim community.
After they boarded, the flight was initially delayed, followed by an announcement made that the flight was cancelled. Alkhawaldeh told the Dallas Morning News that he overheard a crew member say it was cancelled for security reasons.
The two men got off the plane, and law-enforcement officers were waiting for them. They were questioned briefly and allowed to leave, but they said that police officers tailed them as they went to a coffee shop.
The men said that after several minutes, another officer approached them, and brought them into a private interrogation area. They said their bags were searched again by the TSA, and they were each told that the flight was cancelled because the crew didn’t feel comfortable flying with the two men. Abdallah said he was told that the crew was also suspicious because he flushed the toilet twice while using the lavatory during the initial delay.
Alkhawaldeh and Abdallah said they were rebooked on a later flight, which included many of the same passengers.
The flight, AA 5886, was operated by Mesa Airlines, a regional carrier that operates some flights for American under the brand American Eagle.
In a statement provided to Business Insider, a spokesperson for the airline, LeKesha Brown, said that the flight was cancelled as a result of “concerns raised by a crew member and a passenger.”
“American and all of its regional partners have an obligation to take safety and security concerns raised by crew members and passengers seriously. All customers on Flight 5886 were rebooked on the next flight to DFW. We’re committed to providing a positive experience to everyone who travels with us. Our team is working with Mesa to review this incident.”
“Our team is working with Mesa to review this incident, and we have reached out to Mr. Alkhawaldeh and Mr. Abdallah to better understand their experience,” Brown added.
Alkhawaldeh and Abdallah said they had filed a complaint with the Department of Transportation, and said that they wanted to raise awareness of racial and ethnic profiling.
Abdallah also said that he was a frequent traveller on American, even obtaining the top level of frequent flyer status with the airline, AAdvantage Executive Platinum.
This is not the first time that individual employees for the airline have been accused of discrimination. In July, an African-American doctor was forced off of a flight after an American Airlines crew called her outfit “inappropriate.”
In April 2018, a passenger alleged that police were called on her “for flying while fat & Black.”
In October 2017, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People issued a travel warning to African American passengers flying the airline but lifted it in July 2018.