It happened last Sunday.
A Southwest Airline crew member in San Diego International Airport flagged 31-year-old graduate student Irum Abbasi as “suspicious” and had her kicked off the plane.
Trying To Get From San Diego, CA To San Jose, CA
Abbasi, a US citizen who was born in Pakistan, was on the phone with Verizon shortly after boarding the the Southwest flight. As is regulation, she had to get off the phone before the airplane could take off. So she told the Verizon agent, “I’ve got to go.”
Mother Jones reports:
A Southwest Airline crew member thought the headscarf-clad Abbasi had said, “It’s a go” and suspected there might be a terrorist plot afoot. Why she thought a terrorist who wanted to keep her plans secret would give the “go” signal in English for everyone to hear is a mystery. And I don’t know if the phrase “It’s a go” would have been seen as terrorist lingo if it came from someone who didn’t have an accent or wasn’t obviously Muslim.
But regardless, the flight attendant was sufficiently freaked out that the captains of the plane heeded her judgment call and ordered Abbasi taken off the flight. After talking with TSA agents and having her headscarf patted down, Abbasi was cleared to board the next flight. She was later given two apology from the airline and a travel voucher.
Southwest Issues An Apology
“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.
Abassi was given a ticket for the next flight to her destination of San Jose, California and a travel voucher as a gesture of goodwill, the airline said.
But Abassi said that the experience left her in tears. “I could not imagine this happening to me,” she said.
Southwest spokesperson Chris Mainz said, “We treat all our customers the same and we think all of our employees do a very good job of that.”
Who Gets Kicked Off Flights?
It turns out that people have been kicked off Southwest for being too thin and being too fat, so Mr. Mainz appears to be telling the truth. The airline also kicked Kyla Ebbert off a flight for dressing too sexy, then painted a bikini-clad model on a plane as part of a Sports Illustrated promo.
The good news is that Abassi is a U.S. citizen who has lived in the country for 10 years and regularly makes the trip between San Diego and the Bay area. She said she often wears a headscarf and has never had a problem traveling.
The Need For Better Training In Customer Relations
Let’s hope Southwest Airline demonstrates that they are sorry by improving the training for their flight attendants. Shame on them.
Photo Credit: Zainub via Creative Commons