Days after news broke that two men were barred from boarding an airplane because a fellow passenger was afraid to fly with them after hearing the two speaking Arabic, people on Twitter lashed out against Southwest Airlines for the incident. The two men, Maher Khalil and Anas Ayyad, said they were profiled in Chicago’s Midway airport Wednesday trying to get to Philadelphia, WCAU-TV, Philadelphia, reported.
Both men are originally from Palestine, moving to the United States about 15 years ago. Trying to leave Chicago after visiting family, they were stopped at the gate and told apologetically by a gate agent they weren’t allowed on board.
"If that person doesn't feel safe, let them take the bus," Khalil told a gate agent. "We're American citizens just like everybody else."
Not knowing what to do, Khalil called police himself, and the two were questioned by airport security and police. They were eventually let on the plane, and while some of the passengers were supportive, others made the ride for the two uncomfortable.
“When we walked onto the airplane, I told my friend to smile so [other passengers] can think there’s nothing wrong,” Khalil told the Associated Press. “Everybody started giving us that look.”
Some Twitter users condemned Southwest for the incident, calling for a boycott of the airline. Others chastised the passengers who said they were uncomfortable with the two men boarding the plane.
This isn't the first time people have been kept off flights. Similar incidents occurred after the 9/11. As recently as 2013, a woman who is half-Arab and half-Jewish filed suit against the FBI for profiling after she was taken off a plane in Detroit for what she said was her ethnic background, USA Today reported.
Any airline that refuses passengers based on religion or ethnicity should be subject to national boycott. Start with @SouthwestAir.
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) November 21, 2015
.@SouthwestAir I'm not comfortable flying with un-American bigots, please keep them off my flights
— Dan Amira (@DanAmira) November 21, 2015
People asked what was in a small white box Khalil had with him. When he opened the box, there was nothing but baklava, a sweet treat, inside the box, which he shared with some of the passengers.
After the incident, Southwest Airlines said in a statement safety is a primary concern and its employees are trained to make decisions to guard the security of the passengers and flight crew. The Southwest incident is the latest example of heightened tension and fear caused by last week’s Paris terror attacks, which left 130 dead and which the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, has claimed responsibility for.
.@SouthwestAir Truly, your company is standing on the wrong side of history today. Make it right. Make amends. And don't do it again.
— Jenny Han (@jennyhan) November 21, 2015
— Ali Salah (@AbuBishrr) November 21, 2015
Can't blame @SouthwestAir for the employees actions, can blame Southwest for their response. Shameful.
— Aaron Rostad (@aaronrostad) November 21, 2015
I don't need my already stressful bargain-priced, open-seating flight to also be a "bigotry empowerment zone." #SouthwestAirlines
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) November 21, 2015
— Aziz Gilani (@TexasVC) November 21, 2015
— Jason Evan Mihalko (@jaypsyd) November 21, 2015
— Christine Lu (@christinelu) November 21, 2015