A civil rights and advocacy organization called upon the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Wednesday to investigate the removal of a passenger from an American Airlines flight in December 2015, to investigate prevailing practices at major airlines, and to develop clear objective guidelines to determine when passengers may be removed from flights.
Ibrahim Hooper, the communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told NBC News that although the incident occurred last year, CAIR is filing the complaint now "because up until this point we had been trying to reach a resolution with the airline directly. No luck."
On Dec. 6, 2015, a few days after the shooting in San Bernardino, California, a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Detroit, Michigan, allegedly singled out an American Muslim passenger, Mohamed Ahmed Radwan, and said "Mohamed Ahmed, Seat 25-A: I will be watching you," according to CAIR. She then allegedly repeated similar comments to nearby passengers two more times. When Radwan asked about her statements, she allegedly responded that she would be monitoring everyone and that he was being "too sensitive." After Radwan complained to two other American Airlines employees, Radwan was allegedly removed from the flight because he made the first flight attendant "uncomfortable," according to CAIR. He then had to take a much later flight on another carrier.
"By making several clear announcements that Mr. Radwan would be singled out as the subject of individual monitoring and then unjustifiably removing him from his flight, American Airlines discriminated against Mr. Radwan in violation of 49 U.S.C. S. § 40127(a), which prohibits an air carrier from subjecting 'a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or ancestry,'" CAIR staff attorney Maha Sayed wrote in a letter to DOT.
A representative from American Airlines told NBC News, "American was contacted by CAIR earlier this year. We thoroughly reviewed these allegations and concluded that no discrimination occurred. We serve customers of all backgrounds and faiths and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind."