Flying While Muslim is Hard in This Country

Two Muslim men had their American Eagle flight cancelled last Saturday because one of the men – an AAdvantage Executive Platinum member – used the plane’s lavatory while the flight was delayed on the ground, and because passengers and crew don’t like flying with Muslims.

Two Dallas-area Muslim men say their American Airlines flight was canceled because the crew “didn’t feel comfortable” after they waved to one another boarding a flight from Birmingham, Ala., to DFW International Airport.

When they got off, they said they were trailed by law enforcement officers, interviewed by an FBI agent and had their bags searched again by TSA during their trip Saturday.

According to an airline spokesperson the flight was canceled because of “concerns raised by a crew member and a passenger.”

The cause of concern? The man visiting the lavatory “flushed the toilet twice..caused suspicion.”

The worst part of the incident, in my view, is American’s response, (bolded emphasis mine):

American Airlines Flight 5886, operated by Mesa Airlines, from Birmingham to Dallas-Fort Worth on Sept. 14 was canceled due to concerns raised by a crew member and a passenger. American and all of its regional partners have an obligation to take safety and security concerns raised by crew members and passengers seriously. All customers on Flight 5886 were rebooked on the next flight to DFW. We’re committed to providing a positive experience to everyone who travels with us. Our team is working with Mesa to review this incident, and we have reached out to Mr. Alkhawaldeh and Mr. Abdallah to better understand their experience.

American says they have an obligation to take – and, apparently in this case, act upon – employee and customer prejudices as long as they’re masked by concern over safety.

9/11 had a tremendous impact on me. I’ll admit in the days following the terrorist attack, when I was back up in the sky, there were moments of nervousness. I could see fear on the faces of some flight attendants, and it was fear when Middle Eastern-looking passengers were on board. Their fear made me nervous. I realized it was irrational, but in those days it was difficult to process and easy to revert to simple strategies and narratives for doing so.

It’s 18 years later, and according to TSA there have been no active threats in recent years. The airline obligation to take racism seriously expired a long time ago, unless it’s disciplining their own employees for their racism. (In this case of course it was Mesa’s employees, and not American’s but American should be addressing this with their contract partner.)

Whether it’s Southwest Airlines kicking a Muslim woman off a flight for changing seats, Alaska Airlines kicking off a man for looking ‘Arabic and scary’ or an Italian University of Pennsylania economist being kicked off an American flight because a passenger thought he looked Arabic and was doing math equations, “flying while Muslim” represents a real challenge in this country.

For future reference The Economist offered a helpful guide for determining if your seatmate is an economist or a terrorist (He refuses to listen to the safety announcement because “in the long run, we’re all dead”…).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. @FlyingBoat

    You claim to use “Logic” and reasoning and you post a Wikipedia link which actually does NOT confirm what you are saying, just the opposite in fact.

    Perhaps you should do a search and see how many Civilians Americans killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine (the killing is done by the israelis with American money and weapons and the support of America), Vietnam, Japan,…..etc. and lets not forget the Genocide of over 20 Million Native Americans.

    Based on numbers and frequency alone, it seems that Americans are the most Blood Thirsty, violent and disrespectful of other cultures and countries lives than anyone else. Numbers DO NOT lie.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *