Southwest Airlines apologizes to Muslim passenger

March 17, 2011

(RNS) Southwest Airlines has apologized to a Muslim woman who claims she
was removed from a flight from San Diego on Sunday (March 13) because of
her Islamic headscarf and South Asian background.

"We sincerely apologize for the customer's inconvenience, and we
regret that she was unable to travel as scheduled," the airline said in
a statement issued Wednesday after Irum Abbasi, a U.S. citizen
originally from Pakistan, demanded an apology.

Abbasi, a 31-year-old mother of three, was traveling to San Jose,
Calif. when she was escorted off the plane. A crew member thought she
was acting suspicious, and had said "It's a go," in a cell phone
conversation.

Abbasi claims she actually said "I've got to go" because the plane
was about to take off.

"She was an emotional wreck. She was crying," said Edgar Hopida, a
spokesman for the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic
Relations. "We need to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else."

Abassi's ejection occurred the same day that Alaska Airlines removed
three Jewish passengers from a flight because ritual prayers they were
saying before take-off alarmed crew members.

Abbasi was later met by TSA officers who realized the error and did
not search her or her bags. Southwest gave Abbasi a ticket for the next
flight to San Jose, and a travel voucher "as a gesture of goodwill."

A Southwest spokesman said the airline was investigating the
incident, but that it was against company policy to discuss whether any
employees will be disciplined.