On a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Seattle, Hakima Abdulle (a Muslim woman) was kicked off a plane, The Independent reports, for asking the man sitting next to her if they could switch seats. The man was sitting in an aisle seat, and it's a well-known fact that for full-grown adults, the aisle is the best seat. Unfortunately, Ms. Abdulle was wearing a headscarf, which is almost (totally) definitely what prompted a flight attendant to have her (and her headscarf) ejected from the flight.
After the man graciously let Hakima Abdulle have his seat, a flight attendant approached her and said that she was not allowed to switch seats. On another airline, this might have been true. This, however, is Southwest Airlines, which is famous for its unassigned seating. It's kind of Southwest Airlines' thing. It's, like, one of the things Southwest Airlines is best known for. Southwest Airlines has unassigned seating. You'd think their flight attendant would be aware of that.
Ms. Abdulle, who was traveling to stay with and help a pregnant family member in Seattle, asked why she could not switch. In response, the flight attendant ordered her off the plane. Ms. Abdulle, who is not a native English speaker, called her husband Abukar Fadaw, who asked to speak to the flight attendant. When he asked why his wife was being kicked off the flight, he said, "They ignored me." Then, they led her off the flight. "She was crying in front of everybody," said Mr. Fadaw.
Police interviewed the flight attendant at the gate and asked if there was a specific cause for the ejection. "No," was the answer, merely that she did "not feel comfortable" with Adbulle. It's not like this is a new thing, as with the case of this entire non-religious family abruptly put on a no-fly list halfway on their journey to Disneyland.
Southwest Airlines said, in a statement, "We are not in the business of removing passengers from flights without reason, our goal is to get each one of our Customers to their final destination safely. We are responsible for the comfort of all passengers and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind." As to what that "reason" was, the statement said, "Out of respect for the customer's privacy, we will not share specifics about her conduct or travel experience."
Whatever that "conduct" was, it was so serious that Southwest immediately rebooked her on a flight leaving a few hours later. Must've been a serious concern. The couple has retained a lawyer, William Burgess, to see if this was a violation of federal discrimination law. The lawyer says this is the sixth such case he has been contacted about in 2016 alone, including a Muslim couple and their three children being forced to de-board a flight last month, also in Chicago.