There are plenty of reasonable reasons for flight attendants to kick people off of planes, like drunken outbursts or doing yoga in the aisles, but speaking in Arabic isn't one of them.
On April 6, UC Berkeley senior Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, an Iraqi refugee, was booted off his Southwest Airlines flight to Oakland after a passenger thought she heard him use a "threatening phrase," the New York Times reports.
The passenger reported Makhzoomi to Southwest after overhearing him make a phone call to his uncle before takeoff. Makhzoomi had just seen UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon speak and was stoked to tell his uncle about asking the speaker a question and the chicken dinner that was served. The 26-year-old was quickly apprehended by a Southwest employee after using the common Arabic phrase Inshallah(God willing) to end the call with his uncle.
The employee escorted Makhzoomi off the plane, bringing him back into LAX to be searched and questioned by the FBI. There, the agents learned that the kid's family had been living the US for six years, and that his father was a diplomat who had been jailed in Abu Ghraib and was later killed by Saddam Hussein's regime.
After the FBI determined Makhzoomi wasn't a threat, he was able to get his ticket refunded and book another flight on Delta. He finally landed in Oakland eight hours later than planned.
"We regret any less than positive experience a customer has onboard our aircraft," Southwest said in a statement about the incident. "Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind."
"My family and I have been through a lot, and this is just another one of the experiences I have had," Makhzoomi told the Times. "Human dignity is the most valuable thing in the world, not money. If they apologized, maybe it would teach them to treat people equally."