A Muslim-American woman from San Diego plans to announce a lawsuit against Southwest Airlines for discrimination after she was kicked off a flight from San Diego in March for suspicious behavior.
Irum Abbasi, a Pakistani immigrant, has lived in the United States for a decade and was on a flight from San Diego to San Jose in March when the incident occurred.
A San Diego State University graduate student, Abbasi was heading to San Jose State University to finish some research for her Master's degree in psychology when she says a flight attendant appeared concerned over a phone conversation.
Abbasi, who wears a traditional headscarf or hijab, was on her cell phone when the plane was about to leave the airport. She told the person on the phone, I have to go because electronic devises had to be turned off.
Abbasi says that the flight attendant believed that she said, It's a go.
The mother of three was then escorted off the plane by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials and examined. She was soon cleared and placed on the next flight with a travel voucher.
I was in tears, Abbasi said at a news conference days after the incident.
They said 'We know you're clear but we cannot let you go on this flight because they are not willing to accept you. I have lived in the United States for 10 years. I am a U.S. citizen, she added.
She claimed that TSA agents patted down her headscarf but soon realized their mistake and did not even inspect her handbag or cellphone.
Southwest apologized three days after the March 13 incident saying we sincerely apologize for the customer's inconvenience. However, Abbasi wants the crew disciplined.
At the news conference after the incident she said an apology was not enough.
It doesn't make me feel better, she said. This time they said we weren't comfortable with the head scarf. Next time, they won't be comfortable with my accent or they won't be comfortable with my South Asian heritage.
Representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and civil liberties attorney James McElroy have scheduled a news conference outside San Diego Lindburgh Airport on Thursday to further discuss the case.