By Justin Gamble, CNN
Two Muslim men have filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Alaska Airlines for being kicked off a plane before takeoff after a passenger alerted the crew that the men were texting and speaking in Arabic.
According to a lawsuit filed last week in federal district court, the plaintiffs, Abobakkr Dirar and Mohamed Elamin, allege that they boarded a flight from Seattle to San Francisco on February 17, 2020, and after being seated in their first-class seats, they began talking and texting in Arabic. Another passenger, who did not speak Arabic, according to the complaint, saw some of Dirar’s text messages and told the crew that they removed Dirar and Elamin from the flight due to what they claimed was a “ticket issue.” “.
Once Dirar and Elamin left the flight, the men spoke with an Alaska Airlines official who translated their text messages and the messages were not considered a threat, but the men were later surrounded by forces of the order, according to the complaint.
Dirar and Elamin, according to the complaint, felt humiliated to have been removed from the plane and surrounded by law enforcement while allowing other passengers to observe “humiliating complainants in front of their traveling companions by unnecessarily disembarking said passengers and allowing them to observe plaintiffs surrounded by the law in personal enforcement uniforms”.
According to the complaint, they are seeking damages from the airline.
The pair were booked on subsequent flights separately to San Francisco, but Elamin had to sit in a downgraded seat and both passengers arrived at their destination hours later than originally planned.
Dirar and Elamin’s attorney, Luis Segura, told CNN in a statement that Alaska Airlines could have handled the situation better after finding that the complainant passenger’s claims were without merit.
The airline “…could have acted responsibly by calming tensions, apologizing to our customers for their mistreatment and allowing our customers to stay where they were,” he said. “Instead, Alaska Airlines has chosen to go all out on bigotry by using these two black and Muslim American passengers as props in an admittedly unwarranted, unnecessary and self-serving safety theater display. By filing this lawsuit, our customers are not only demanding justice for themselves, but also for an entire community tired of being scapegoated for justifying discrimination in airline travel.
When asked why it took more than two years to file a lawsuit, Segura told CNN that in December 2020, Alaska Airline’s attorney said he would conduct an internal investigation into the incident. case, but that he had never contacted his clients.
In a statement to CNN, Alaska Airlines says it takes complaints of discrimination very seriously.
“Our greatest responsibility is to ensure that our flight operations are safe every day, and that includes complying with federal regulations on investigating passenger safety reports. As this matter remains an ongoing litigation, we are unable to share any further comments or details at this time.
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