It seems that Southwest Airlines may really need to do some mandatory diversity trainings.
Earlier today, the Daily News reported that a Maryland Muslim woman of Somalian descent, who was wearing a hijab, was booted from a Southwest flight this past Wednesday.
The woman’s husband, Abukar Fidaw, told WJLA that his wife, Hakima Abdulle of Takoma Park, was flying from Washington, D.C., to Seattle after a layover in Chicago. She was seated between two men, which made her feel uncomfortable, so she asked another passenger to trade seats.
The passenger obliged, and Abdulle tried to sit, but a Southwest flight attendant had other plans.
“She tried to sit but (the flight attendant) said, ‘You are not going to sit. You have to leave the airplane,’” her husband said.
The flight attendant told her that the seat swap was not permissible, although the airline has a policy of unassigned seating. Abdulle asked why, and wasn’t given an answer, but was instead told that she needed to leave the plane.
Humiliated and not understanding what she had done wrong, Abdulle nonetheless cooperated, and left the plane.
At the gate, police officers asked the flight attendant if there was any specific reason that Abdulle had been thrown off the flight; the flight attendant said “no” and that she “didn’t feel comfortable” with the passenger.
After speaking with a supervisor, several hours later, Abdulle was rebooked on a flight to Seattle.
Southwest has yet to release any information as to what exactly Abdulle did wrong, and why she was asked to leave without any explanation.
They have aligned themselves with their employee, and reportedly told local media that the flight attendant followed proper procedures in asking Abdulle to deplane, but they still did not comment on why Abdulle was asked to leave. Several news outlets, such as the Daily News, reached out to them to ask why Abdulle was kicked off the flight.
They never received a response.
A statement from Southwest alludes that Abdulle was at fault for something she did.
“Information available, collected at the time of the event, indicates that our employees followed proper procedures in response to this customer’s actions while onboard the aircraft. Out of respect for the customer’s privacy, we will not share specifics about her conduct or travel experience. We are not in the business of removing passengers from flights without reason, our goal is to get each one of our Customers to their final destination safely. We are responsible for the comfort of all passengers and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”
The Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is demanding that the airline apologize, and refund Abdulle’s airfare. They’re also asking that the flight attendant in question receive diversity training.
Although this happened Wednesday, the story is picking up steam now because this is the second incident in a matter of days where Muslims were unfairly targeted while flying on Southwest Airlines, despite Southwest’s statement that they have zero tolerance for discrimination.
This weekend, 26-year-old Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a UC Berkeley student and the son of a slain Iraqi diplomat, was not only escorted off a plane, but also interrogated by the FBI after a passenger heard him speaking to his uncle on the phone in Arabic, and reported it to a flight attendant.
Rather ironic for an airline that uses the slogan “Heart sets us apart. Introducing a vibrant look inspired by our love of people.” Apparently that no longer applies if you’re wearing hijab or speaking or Arabic.