While the events unfolding around the world are terrible, that’s no excuse for being a bigot.
On Thursday I wrote about the Spirit Airlines flight between Baltimore and Chicago, which returned to the gate so four passengers could be questioned. One of the passengers was watching a “suspicious video,” which prompted the plane to be turned back. I can only imagine how horrifying this situation must have been for all the innocent passengers aboard, like Jenna Farelli, who said the following:
“I started praying to God, like, I literally thought that plane was going to blow up. It was the scariest moment of my life.”
Yes, nothing scarier than having to share a plane with people who look like they’re from “that” region! Hopefully she never flies Etihad, where they start each flight with a travel prayer:
Unfortunately the small-mindedness goes beyond the passengers on the Spirit flight between Baltimore and Chicago.
A Southwest flight from Chicago to Philadelphia was delayed on Wednesday night after two Palestinian-American passengers were told to step aside during boarding because other passengers didn’t feel comfortable flying with them. Via NBC10:
Khalil, 29 and Ayyad, 28, moved to Philadelphia from Palestine 15 years ago. Khalil now owns the Feltonville pizza shop — Pizza Point — that gave him his first job. The friends were in Chicago visiting each other’s families and met back at the airport Wednesday night to take the same flight home. The gate agent told them apologetically they wouldn’t be allowed to board because a passenger was afraid to fly with them after overhearing the men speaking Arabic.
“I didn’t know what to do, so I called the cops,” Khalil said.
The flight was delayed and the two men were ultimately allowed to board after being questioned again by airport security and police. The airline issued a statement acknowledging a brief disagreement with two customers.
Southwest issued the following statement regarding the incident:
“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,” the airline’s statement read.
Frankly I find the way Southwest handled this situation, including their statement, to be disappointing. If someone is a racist and feels uncomfortable, let them take another flight. But to pull aside or delay passengers in any way for speaking Arabic is ridiculous. They deserve an apology.
Unfortunately it seems the racism didn’t end even once they boarded, though kudos to the two passengers for how they acted:
“We’re walking down the aisle and I’d already told him [Ayyad] to smile and act like nothing was wrong. But then people kept asking me, ‘What’s in that box?!’ I was carrying a small white box. And the passengers made me open the box!”
“So I shared my baklava with them.”
That’s how it’s done!
Here’s an NBC10 video of the situation:
Airlines are of course there to ensure everyone’s safety, though there’s a fine line between doing that and enabling racism, as was the case here. Based on all the reports I’ve seen of the story, the two passengers did nothing to cause being called out, and were even subjected to bullying aboard. Good on them for the positive attitude they took.
It’s interesting that there have been three such incidents this week, and two have been on Southwest and one on Spirit. Just saying…