Two Muslim men from the Dallas area claimed Thursday they were racially profiled and forced off an Alabama-to-Texas flight because one of them was deemed suspicious for using a bathroom — and flushing twice — before takeoff.
Issam Abdallah and Abderraoof Alkhawaldeh were aboard American Airlines Flight 5886 in Birmingham on Saturday morning to fly home to Dallas when the crew suddenly had all passengers get off the regional jetliner, the two men told reporters at a press conference in Dallas on Thursday.
The men said they were initially told it was a general security concern before an FBI agent specifically informed them that Abdallah had raised concern by using the toilet on the plane.
"I asked him what's the reason, he (FBI agent) said I went to the restroom and I flushed twice," Abdallah told reporters in Dallas on Thursday. "It was a really humiliating situation in front of everybody, I felt like they were discriminating against my ethnicity and my religion."
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American Airlines said it cancelled the flight over "safety and security concerns,"
“American Airlines Flight 5886, operated by Mesa Airlines, from Birmingham to Dallas-Fort Worth on Sept. 14 was canceled due to concerns raised by a crew member and a passenger," according to a company statement on Thursday.
"American and all of its regional partners have an obligation to take safety and security concerns raised by crew members and passengers seriously. All customers on Flight 5886 were rebooked on the next flight to DFW."
American said it is reviewing the incident and has "reached out to Mr. Alkhawaldeh and Mr. Abdallah to better understand their experience.”
Alkhawaldeh said he has traveled more than a million miles on American and has attained the airline's highest frequent flier status, executive platinum.
"And to be treated with disrespect, suspicion. This is absurd, unacceptable and un-American," Alkhawaldeh said.
Alkhawaldeh choked back tears as he pondered his next trip.
"I am really worried as to what my next flying experience will be,” Alkhawaldeh said. “I have not had problems before and then out of nowhere, for what?"