Muslim family kicked off US flight over 'how they looked'

Published: April 2, 2016


A United Airlines pilot asked a Muslim family of five to leave the plane before it took off for Washington.

Eaman-Amy Saad Shebley, her husband and three young children were about to take off on a flight bound for Washington at a Chicago airport when the pilot asked them to get off the aircraft citing “security issues.”

The family was asked to leave the plane after they requested an additional strap for their youngest daughter’s booster seat, according to Ahmed Rehab, executive director of Chicago’s Council on American-Islamic Relations.

United apologises to Muslim woman for soda incident, bans accused crew member

The family was ordered to exit the plane for security reasons and no further explanation was given. When the mother and father asked the flight crew why they were being removed, they were told to walk out “peacefully,” return to the gate and await further instructions, Rehab said.

United Airlines said in a statement that the family was removed “because of concerns about their child’s safety seat, which did not comply with federal safety regulations.”

Two videos filmed by Shebley show the air stewardess and then the pilot asking the family to leave. Shebley asked the pilot whether it was a “discriminatory” decision. The pilot replied it was a “flight safety issue” but were not given any details.

Shebley wrote on Facebook: “Shame on you ‪#‎unitedAirlines for profiling my family and me for no reason other than how we look and kicking us off the plane for “safety flight issues” on our flight to DC for the kids spring break. My three kids are too young to have experienced this.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations sent a letter to United Airlines on the family’s behalf demanding disciplinary action against the staff involved.

“We are tired of Muslim-looking passengers being removed from flights for the flimsiest reasons, under a cryptic claim of ‘security’,” said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said in a statement. “Security means securing passengers, not harassing and humiliating them and booting them off their flight for, of all things, actually asking for security.”

Muslim woman faced discrimination by flight attendant, passengers over unopened soda can

Another Muslim woman and a Northwestern University chaplain, Tagera Ahmad, was denied a can of diet coke onboard a United Airlines flight in May as the flight attendant said she “may use it as a weapon”.

The airline apologised multiple times to Shebley’s family after they got off the plane and were rebooked on another flight.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, United Airlines said the family was rebooked “on a later flight because of concerns about their child’s safety seat, which did not comply with federal safety regulations” and said the airline has “zero tolerance for discrimination”.

This article originally appeared on Chicago Tribune

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Travis
    Apr 2, 2016 - 5:27PM

    Time to accept that people are not comfortable travelling along with Muslims dressed in Islamic attire. There is a need for Islamic airlines that might have a big market ferrying Muslims. The pilots really have no choice on this matter when passengers complain.Recommend

  • Tp
    Apr 2, 2016 - 6:07PM

    Always the victims! They were evicted because their child seat did not conform to regulations. If a Christian family had been evicted for the same reason, would it be in the news?Recommend

  • Brainy Bhaijan
    Apr 2, 2016 - 6:21PM

    I do believe it WAS a booster seat issue, since they readily took the next flight.
    I know americans. They are definitely not this racist. I do not believe this was due to her hijab.Recommend

  • Asim Khan
    Apr 2, 2016 - 8:10PM

    I am really getting sicked of hearing and reading news how ordinary muslim families are being denied to take flights due the way they look or how they are dressed. I think it is will good if Donald Trump plan is implemented and all muslims are denied entry into usa and American Muslims have to wear a location tag. So, it can clear and open to the whole world that this is the way we treat Muslims now either accept it and deal with it or do not come to USA. Do not get me wrong I love USA and some of my best years were in usa as did university there but see open discrimination by American Companies and American Citizens who once were so friendly makes me sad. This message of hatred and picking on people will be create more hatred among everyone and will not solve anything. I may be wrong but that is my opinion.Recommend

  • SuperNeoothi
    Apr 2, 2016 - 8:52PM

    Nothing wrong in this if pilots suspect, its his decision. what he appening with non muslims in muslims countries that can not be describe in wordsRecommend

  • curious2
    Apr 2, 2016 - 8:59PM

    I have never witnessed a Muslim being asked to leave a plane – but I have witnessed more than one dispute over child restraint systems. Families try and bring their own restraining seats because in the USA your required to use them in cars and some car rental outfits tend to gouge you with outrageous fees for child safety seats.. Some people bring the child seats on airplanes not so much for safety but because they want to avoid additional baggage fees.
    Gets complicated because the FAA has some bizarre/confusing rules. You can’t use any restraining system unless it has FAA approval sticker – and certain restraining types like the “booster seats” mentioned in this article aren’t suppose to be used during takeoff/landings making them a real PIA for flight attendants and a source of conflict between airline/passenger.
    At a minimum United Airlines didn’t do a great job of explaining the problem.

  • Voiceless Pakistani
    Apr 2, 2016 - 11:36PM

    United is the stinkiest of all

    racist american airlines.Recommend

  • Sodomite
    Apr 2, 2016 - 11:51PM

    Dont fly United. Choose others. Recommend

  • Khan
    Apr 3, 2016 - 12:21AM

    Discrimination exist and is true in USA. It is absurd to take their (westerners) lame excuses. In this case, for sure, this family was profiled by extremist American.Recommend

  • Aamir - Toronto
    Apr 3, 2016 - 4:11AM

    @SuperNeoothi……what if I call you a terrorist for no reason ??? Recommend

  • JSM
    Apr 3, 2016 - 5:26AM

    I share their anger and trauma.Recommend

  • Joe
    Apr 3, 2016 - 10:13AM

    Totally avoidable situation if the pilot and crew had given an adequate explanation to why the family was being asked to exit the flight. By stonewalling them, it only made matters worse. This situation is totally on United Airlines.Recommend

  • Mohammad
    Apr 3, 2016 - 11:19AM

    Americans are not racists….Period. Recommend

  • Insane Trump
    Apr 4, 2016 - 2:51AM

    Muslim countries should ban Non-Muslims for entering in their land.Recommend

  • Uzair
    Apr 4, 2016 - 9:14AM

    There is a reason why a racist bigot like Trump is the Republican front-runner!Recommend

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