US airline threatens Muslim woman for swapping plane seats

#FlyingWhileMuslim: Journalist Mehdi Hassan accuses US airline of racism after wife threatened for swapping seats
2 min read
07 December, 2019
Mehdi Hassan accused a US airline of racism after a flight attendant threatened to remove his wife from the plane after she asked to swap seats.
British broadcaster Mehdi Hassan is the latest person to accuse Southwest Airlines of racism [Wikipedia/Getty]
British Muslim journalist Mehdi Hassan has launched a scathing tirade against a US airline, accusing it of refusing to publicly apologise after its crew threatened to force his headscarf-wearing wife off a plane for asking to swap seats so she could sit with the rest of her family.

Hassan, who presents various shows on Aljazeera, took to Twitter on December 2 to publicise his wife’s mistreatment at the hands of Southwest Airlines cabin crew on a flight between Houston and Washington DC after Thanksgiving.

Using the hashtag #FlyingWhileMuslim, Hassan accused the crew of racism and Islamophobia, after his wife “politely” asked an obliging passenger to swap seats. In response, she was threatened by flight attendants to be forced off the aircraft for making people “uncomfortable".

Oxford-educated Hassan, whose parents came to the UK from India, took to Twitter to post: “Not a good look for your flight attendant on SW5539 to DC last night to loudly tell a brown woman in a headscarf she'll be ‘escorted off the plane’ for making people feel ‘uncomfortable’ - because she wanted to sit with her husband & kids!”.

Read more: YouTuber Adam Saleh thrown off plane 'for speaking Arabic'

A budget airline, Southwest Airlines operates a policy of unreserved, first come first served seating allocation.

Hassan added that the attendant’s humiliation of his wife had left her in tears.

He also pointed out that other passengers’ were confused at the crew’s sudden escalation.

“Even her own @SouthwestAir colleague from the ground staff who came onboard to check things wondered why the flight attendant wouldn't shut up & let things go so we could take off,” Hassan tweeted.

On Friday, Hassan took to social media once more to criticise Southwest Airlines for refusing to publicly apologise for the incident.

 “@SouthwestAir have apologized privately but refuse to apologize publicly; offered travel vouchers to fly with them (!) that don't cover the costs of our flights; & have made up a totally false narrative,” he tweeted, referencing the airline’s comments made to the Sun.

A Southwest Airlines spokesperson told the newspaper there had been a disagreement between passengers over the seat selection, which Hassan said was “false”.

Southwest Airlines has a history of mistreating Muslim or Middle Eastern passengers. In one such incident, a Philadelphia pizza shop owner and a friend were taken aside for speaking Arabic while boarding the plane.

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