This is awful!!
College student Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was getting on board a Southwest Airlines flight earlier this month when, after a phone call to his Iraqi uncle in which the University of California student was speaking Arabic, he was booted off the plane!
The student, who had just been at an event where he was able to ask United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon a question — undoubtedly a high point in his life — experienced one of the lowest of low points thanks to blatant discrimination when he boarded Flight 4620.
It all started on April 6 when Makhzoomi, who was in Los Angeles waiting to take off for Oakland, called his uncle who lives in Baghdad to tell the relative all about his meeting with the U.N. Secretary-General:
“I just called him and talked to him about it and everything, and he told me (to) call him when I get to Oakland, and I said, ├óΓé¼╦£insha’Allah insha’Allah (God willing), I will call you when I arrive.’ And during the conversation a lady was staring at me.”
The woman was staring because the conversation was taking place in Arabic — and initially, Makhzoomi assumed he was being observed because of how loudly he was speaking.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
The woman, who had left the plane, suddenly came back… with company:
“One person came with police officers within two minutes ├óΓé¼ΓÇ¥ I can’t believe how fast they were ├óΓé¼ΓÇ¥ and told me to get off the plane.”
For their part, Southwest Airlines claim there was a report of “potentially” threatening comments that caused Makhzoomi’s removal from the flight, releasing in a statement:
“Prior to the departure of Flight 4620, our crew made the decision to investigate a report of potentially threatening comments overheard onboard our aircraft. A group of our employees including the flight crew made the decision to review the situation. We understand local law enforcement also spoke with that passenger as the aircraft departed the gate. To respect the privacy of those involved, we will not publicly share any further specifics of the event. We prefer to communicate directly with our customers to address concerns and feedback regarding their travel experience.”
Makhzoomi contends he was treated badly after being taken off the plane, telling reporters:
“The guy who came and pulled me from the plane, he took me to the jet bridge, I believe he worked with Southwest and I must say he was aggressive in the way he treated me. He was not very nice. He tried to speak to me in Arabic, but I couldn’t understand his Arabic, so I asked him to speak to me in English. I felt oppressed. I was afraid. He said, ├óΓé¼╦£You seem that you were having a serious conversation on the phone. Who were you talking to?'”
After being questioned by the FBI, Makhzoomi was released — but the damage was done:
“All I want is an apology today. We as a people, Iraqi, American, Iranian, we share one thing in common, and that is our dignity. If someone tries to take that away from us, we should fight but not with aggression, with knowledge and education. One must stand for his principle.”
Southwest Airlines appears to be standing on their interpretation of the events, adding in their statement:
“We wouldn’t remove a passenger from a flight without a collaborative decision rooted in established procedures. Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind. Our company could not survive if we believed otherwise. In fact, a cursory view of our workforce, as well as our expansive, multicultural customer base, is a reliable indicator that we exalt and appreciate diversity.”
Hmm… this is a funny way of “appreciating diversity.”
The company even refused to fly Makhzoomi back to Oakland after the FBI questioned him and determined he was not a threat.
All around, a truly awful, awful job, Southwest.
[Image via KTLA.]