News & Politics

Southwest Airlines Now Totally Cool With Customers Kicking Muslims Off Flights

In response to a recent incident of racial profiling, Southwest seems to endorse prejudice.

In two separate incidents this week, Southwest Airlines has kicked Arabic-speaking passengers off their flights following customer complaints. The airline doesn't seem to understand this is something corporations should not do in 2015.

In one case, business owners Maher Khalil and Anas Ayyad were asked to step aside because fellow passengers were, according to NBC 10 Philadelphia, "afraid to fly with them." Eventually, the boarding agent told the two men they could not get on the flight because other passengers overheard them speaking Arabic.

"If that person doesn't feel safe, let them take the bus," Khalil said to a Southwest Airlines gate agent, according to NBC 10. "We're American citizens just like everybody else."


As Gawker's Melissa Cronin notes, this effectively deputizes bigots to eject whomever they want, a trend Southwest should put a stop to unless it wants to become the official airline for the country’s bigots.

What makes matters worse is how the $6.7 billion company responded, with the following, tone-deaf statement:

Safety is our primary focus, and our Employees are trained to make decisions to ensure that safety, and to safeguard the security of our Crews and Customers on every flight. 

What exactly was the safety risk here? Paranoid bigots demanding other passengers be removed from a flight is not the same thing as increasing safety. 

Will Southwest Airlines address these incidents responsibly, or will it continue to let racist morons determine safety policy for everyone else?

UPDATE: Southwest airlines has returned Gawker's request for comment. These responses are published below:

Southwest Airlines sent Gawker the following statement. It did not address the second flight, nor answer a question regarding whether incidents like this will happen in the future.

We had a slight delay boarding, lasting only a few minutes, while we completed a brief passenger conversation. All customers were boarded and traveled on to their scheduled destination, Philadelphia. Southwest Employees welcome hundreds of millions of Customers onboard annually. We are responsible for the comfort of all passengers and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.

Update 4:41 p.m.

Southwest has issued a second statement, addressing the flight that the six Muslim passengers were not allowed to board.

On Wednesday, Southwest Flight #126 from Chicago (Midway) to Houston (Hobby) was delayed departing the gate after several passengers refused to follow Crew instructions. Reports indicate that the situation involved seating arrangements and repeated attempts from those passengers involved to save seats and rearrange other passengers onboard the aircraft. Our crews were unable to resolve the situation without delaying the flight so we rebooked the customers on a later flight that same day.

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Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst at FAIR and contributing writer for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJohnsonNYC.