A Southwest Air flight attendant ordered the removal of a woman of Somali descent in a headscarf from a Chicago-Seattle flight after the passenger asked her neighbor if she could switch seats with him. The flight attendant said she "did not feel comfortable" with the passenger onboard.
The woman, Hakima Abdulle, who is not fluent in English, was travelling to Seattle to assist a pregnant family member.
Her seatmate readily agreed to switch seats with her so she could have the aisle, but the SWA flight attendant told them passengers were not allowed to change seats.
Southwest Air has an open seating policy. Seats are not assigned.
The passenger was met at the gate by police, who asked the attendant if there was any reason she was being removed from the aircraft. The flight attendant said no, but she was being removed due to the FA's lack of "comfort."
Southwest Airlines issued a statement saying it wasn't racism, but they couldn't say any more to protect Ms Abdulle's privacy, though their employee "followed proper procedures in response to this customer's actions." They proved it couldn't possibly be racism, saying, "We are not in the business of removing passengers from flights without reason."
That definitely settles it, then.
Her husband, Abukar Fadaw, who spoke on his wife's behalf at a press conference to discuss the incident while Ms Abdulle was in Seattle, said his wife became upset.
"She was crying in front of everybody," he said.
"They ignored me," he said.
The couple's lawyer, William Burgess, said it is a violation of federal law for an airline to discriminate against passengers on the basis of religion – yet he said he has received about half a dozen similar reports from Muslims this year alone.
Muslim woman kicked off plane as flight attendant said she 'did not feel comfortable' with the passenger