Four men from Brooklyn trying to fly home together after a few days in Toronto last December have filed a $9 million federal lawsuit alleging that they were racially profiled as Muslims and removed from an American Airlines flight because the captain felt uneasy.
According to New York Daily News, two of the four men are Bangladeshi American and Muslim, one is Arab American and Muslim, and one is Sikh American. All are U.S. citizens in their 20s. Two other friends — one who is Pakistani American and another who is Hispanic American — were allowed to remain on the plane.
The group of friends told the Daily News that they were originally booked on different return flights, but then decided that they wanted to fly home together. Shan Anand and Faimul Alam paid $75 to switch to the same flight as their friends. Two other friends identified as W.H. and M.K. paid $70 to upgrade to business class. Anand and Alam then switched seats with strangers after boarding so that they could sit next to each other.
After being asked to get off the plane, W.H. told the Daily News that an airline agent said that the captain felt uneasy because "there were inconsistencies of our behavior traveling as a group, because two of us upgraded and two of us didn't."
"They were told to 'just be peaceful,' making it seem like they were a threat, making other passengers uncomfortable and wanting to get off the flight," attorney Tahanie Aboushi, who is representing the men, told the Daily News. "They didn't cite any basis of inappropriate or boisterous behavior; their situation wasn't a security issue or threat."
Requests for comment to Aboushi by NBC News were not immediately returned.
When the men asked if they were removed from the plane because of their appearance — darker skin, beards, and one Sikh turban — the agent allegedly said their appearance "did not help."
The men were allowed to take the next American Airlines flight home, the flight for which Anand and Alam originally had tickets.
According to NBC New York, American Airlines is reviewing the lawsuit.