Muslim Graduate Student Kicked Off Plane

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


Sandra L.
Sandra Lewis5 years ago

Good grief! She was talking on a cell phone with a foreign accent and a muslim headscarf and said something that sounded like "it's a go". No harm, no foul!. She shouldn't have been talking on her cell phone while boarding a plane. Does anybody else not get that? Where has all the courtesy and the common sense gone? You want to fly somewhere? Keep a lower profile! Duh....

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

Welcome to the real world. Fear, fear and fear now make up our thinking. This was overkill but safety before comfort.

wooddragon xx
wooddragon xx6 years ago

Just a thought...
As everyone around the world knows racial profiling exists; shouldn’t a flight attendant be profiling your average typical white man, in a business suit, seated within business class or your typical little old lady, carrying her hand bag in economy class? If terrorist organisation were to be more effective, they would probably be brainwashing that particular racial profile if they wanted their operation to succeed.

In saying that...

Those who do stop people because of their race alone are either ignorant of the law, are unethical or immoral. Reasonable suspicion should not be based on race alone because it actually violates the law. Better training in law and ethics and effective supervision, would address this problem.

Heather G.
Heather G6 years ago

carol, it's easy to dismiss racism as "not making any sense at ALL" when you are white. what's harder is acknowledging how your white skin priviledges you. no one will think you are a terrorist no matter what you are wearing on your head or saying on your phone. you don't have to be a "liberal" to understand it.

michael c.
corbin m6 years ago

Carol-In what way? You make a statement, then don't back it up or expand on it. Typical conservative.

Carol Dreeszen
Carol D6 years ago

Michael...............You don't make any sense at ALL! Typical liberal!

Jane..Thanks a bunch gal!! *hug*

Jane R.
Jane R6 years ago

Carol D. said it best. It's better to make a mistake about someone than to take a chance and lose a lot of lives.

michael c.
corbin m6 years ago

Welcome to the NEW America. Home of the "brave", land of the "free". Give us your tired, yada yada, masses, yada yada. And Carol, I'd LOVE to see, REALLY see, if you'd feel the same if it were you or YOUR loved ones (son, ailing mother perhaps). Also, you, and people like you, need to TRY to think. It's not the absurd treatment per se, that makes this type of behavior ABSOLUTELY racist. It's that not everyone is treated the same. When you signal an individual party out for differential treatment, THAT makes it racist. If I were a 60 yr. old white man, with white hair, in a business suit, sitting in 1st class with a crucifix pin on my lapel, and said into my cell phone, "it's a go"-do you honestly think I would be pulled off the plane? Seriously? And if I wouldn't be, THAT makes it racist. If I would be, then those would be ridiculous security procedures, but not racist. And if you'd bother to do ANY research whatsoever ("God" forbid a conservative would do research), it is actually, 60-98% more likely for my middle-aged white example to be a terrorist than a Muslim (according to the FBI statistics on insurgency and home based terror groups list). Also, all this fear that you and others like you hold so tightly to is cowardly, at best, and does not befit a True American. The Founding Fathers would be ashamed at what their creation has become. You should be too.

Jennifer W.
Jennifer W6 years ago

"Throughout the region, the battle cry of the youth is not “Death to America” – it is for democracy and political freedom, for accountable government and civil rights, for jobs, self-respect and the chance to live a decent life."

In post-Mubarak Egypt, Copts have been attacked and a leading Copt priest slaughtered by members of the religion of peace.

After his throat was slit, local Muslims came out into the streets to celebrate.

Since Muburak was overthrown, the situation of the Copts in Egypt is more precarious than ever. They are still the victims of massive persecution and discrimination.

A demonstration in Cairo in favour of equal rights for women ended up with the women participants being attacked and sexually molested by dozens of Egyptian men.

The American TV reporter Lara Logan was sexually assaulted by a mob of 200 Egyptians celebrating the overthrow of Mubarak. As they beat and violated her, they shouted "Jew! Jew!"

A large majority of Egyptians support female genital mutilation and sexual molestation and assaults on women are rampant in Egyptian society.

Muslims who long for freedom, democracy, and civil rights?

Püll my other leg, it's made of rubber.

@Comment in 17th March 2011

Carol Dreeszen
Carol D6 years ago

It's also for the Muslims protection that these attendants are on top of things. I would rather have a mistake being made and live to see it than to be blown up above the ground and not see it! We have got to stop this insane calling racist crap when something like this happens because if we don't I can guarantee you the restrictions put on the attendants because of the fear that they might do something wrong is going to create more loss of life than you can ever imagine! Mistakes will be made and people will be the end of the day everybody will still be alive! Is that not better than blowing up in the air because somebody was afraid to make a claim because some idiot made a claim against them or is this the case where they are damned if they do and damned of they don't!? It can't be both ways...we have got to grow up and realize for safety sake some things might happen wrong as a result of trying to keep people safe. Too much PC crap keeps getting brought into situations like this and from there on everything goes to hell in a hand basket! I say grow up realize this is a hell of a situation for EVERYBODY because of MUSLIM TERRORISTS and we do the best we can from here on out. Everybody needs to understand it's for safety purposes only!!