United Airlines
A gay father who was falsely accused by airline staff of molesting his 5-year-old son during a United Airlines flight earlier this year is speaking out about the incident. In this photo, a United Airlines jet taxis at O'Hare International Airport on September 19, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

A gay father who was falsely accused by United Airlines staff of molesting his 5-year-old son earlier this year is speaking out about the incident. Henry Amador-Batten, who fell asleep with his arm over his son during the May flight, now questions whether the allegation was racially motivated.

Speaking with People for an interview published Thursday, Amador-Batten said that he’s never been subjected to discrimination on the basis of his sexual orientation. He said he has, however, experienced racial profiling. Amador-Batten, a Latino man, recalled several incidents in which he was discriminated against while traveling.

“I was nearly always targeted by security both in the U.S. and in the countries I was entering,” he told People. “I’m assuming that a well-dressed Hispanic man flying out of Miami was easily suspected of being in the drug business. I missed flights, had luggage basically torn apart. I had tubes of toothpaste squeezed out and even hems on my jacket and pants ripped open.”

He added, “We can’t know what the flight attendant’s motives, perceptions, or intentions were. Although both Ben and I are Hispanic, he is lighter than I. Did the attendant see an older Hispanic man traveling with a little white boy? I can’t imagine he could have but who knows?”

The captain of the flight from Newark, New Jersey, to the family’s home in North Carolina told authorities at the time that crew witnessed Amador-Batten touching his son “near the genitals,” and Amador-Batten later was detained and questioned.

Amador-Batten’s experience was widely publicized after the family posted about it on Facebook and clarified that he had his “hand/arm laying across [the sleeping boy’s] lap.”

“After being made to feel like a criminal in front of other passengers as they exited the plane my husband filed a report of his own mentioning that the male flight attendant that must have accused him had treated him oddly in flight, and was promptly sent on his way,” Amador-Batten’s husband, Joel, wrote at the time. “This is the icing on the cake for a man who has spent nearly the last two weeks in Puerto Rico dealing with his father's quick decline and subsequent death. This is not how anyone deserves to be treated.”

United Airlines issued a statement to International Business Times in May addressing the incident.

“In this instance, the crew believed it was appropriate to ask authorities to meet the plane and interview the customer,” said the airline. “After speaking with the customer, authorities determined that no further action was necessary. Our customers should always be treated with the utmost respect and we have followed up with our customer to apologize for the misunderstanding.”