Did Southwest Turn Away Passengers for Speaking Arabic?
Not a great week for Southwest flights out of Chicago's Midway airport: two incidents on Wednesday have raised eyebrows about the carrier's passenger profiling.
According to NBC News, two Arabic-speaking men were blocked from boarding their flight to Philadelphia when a fellow passenger voiced concerns to a Southwest crew member. The gate agent, in return, kow-towed, leaving Maher Khalil and Anas Ayyad with no other choice but to call 911. After being questioned by police and airport security, the pair was eventually allowed on their much-delayed flight.
Also this week, Southwest reportedly removed six Muslim passengers from a flight from Chicago to Houston for "disobeying crew member instructions" and rebooked them on another flight. The travelers were apparently attempting to save seats for their friends—Southwest, after all, is famous for their open seating—and, in doing so, disturbed fellow passengers.
Erika Owen is the Audience Engagement Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @erikaraeowen.
UPDATE: Statement from Southwest Airlines
On Wednesday evening, Southwest Flight #126 from Chicago (Midway) to Houston (Hobby) was delayed departing the gate after several passengers refused to follow Crew instructions. Reports indicate that the situation involved seating arrangements and repeated attempts from those passengers involved to save seats and rearrange other passengers onboard the aircraft. Our crews were unable to resolve the situation without delaying the flight so we rebooked the customerson a later flight that same day.
On Thursday, reports indicate that Flight 6599 from Chicago Midway to Philadelphia International Airport departed a few minutes behind schedule as our Employees completed conversations with Customers who approached us during the boarding process. We had a slight delay boarding and the flight and all Customers traveled on to Philadelphia arriving ten minutes behind schedule.