Two Muslim men who were boarding a plane from Birmingham, Alabama, to Dallas on Saturday have filed a complaint with the US Department of Transportation over what they said was blatant racial profiling by the flight crew.
Abderraoof Alkhawaldeh and Issam Abdallah, two Muslim community leaders from the Dallas area, said their flight was canceled because the crew “did not feel comfortable” with them on the plane.
Everything had been going smoothly when they boarded the flight. The men, who are friends but were traveling separately, spotted each other and waved.
While waiting for the crew to sort out some maintenance issues before takeoff, Abdallah got up from his seat to use the restroom. When he came out, he realized a flight attendant was standing close to the bathroom door, the Dallas Morning News reported.
“The flight attendant reported that he went to the restroom and flushed the toilet twice,” Alkhawaldeh told CBS DFW. “The last time I know, flushing is allowed in this country.”
When Alkhawaldeh and Abdallah got off the plane, they said they were interrogated by law enforcement officers who followed them and had their bags screened by TSA again.
An American Airlines spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the flight was operated and staffed by a regional carrier, Mesa Airlines.
The airline said in a statement that the flight was canceled “due to concerns raised by a crew member and a passenger” and that its team was reviewing the incident with Mesa Airlines.
“We have reached out to Mr. Alkhawaldeh and Mr. Abdallah to better understand their experience,” the statement said.
A Mesa Airlines spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the company is “conducting a thorough investigation of this matter.”
The two men addressed the incident at a press conference at the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) DFW chapter Thursday. “I felt like I am discriminated against my ethnicity, my religion,” Abdallah told reporters. “It was the most horrible, humiliating day of my life.”