Palestinian Americans profiled on flight home from Chicago
Palestinian Americans Maher Khalil—owner of Pizza Point in Philadelphia—and his friend Anas Ayyad were originally barred from boarding their Southwest Airline flight headed home because another passenger complained that she was scared to be on the same flight with them after she heard the two speak Arabic.
Khalil and Ayyad have lived in the U.S. for 15 years and were in Chicago visiting family.
“If that person doesn’t feel safe, let them take the bus,” Khalil said to the gate agent, according to NBC. “We’re American citizens just like everybody else.”
Khalil and Ayyad immediately called the police when they were not allowed to board the Southwest Airline flight. The flight was then delayed and after being questioned and cleared by airport security and police, they were allowed to board.
Another Southwest flight leaving Chicago was delayed after passengers protested six Muslims to be on the flight. The Muslim passengers had to rebook on another flight.
“Safety is our primary focus, and our Employees are trained to make decisions to ensure that safety, and to safeguard the security of our Crews and Customers on every flight,” the airline stated.
Khalil told NBC news that some passengers approached them with support and did not agree with how the whole situation was handled, while other passengers made them feel uncomfortable.
“We’re walking down the aisle and I’d already told him [Ayyad] to smile and act like nothing was wrong. But then people kept asking me, ‘What’s in that box?!’ I was carrying a small white box. And the passengers made me open the box!”
“So I shared my baklava with them,” he added.