Southwest accused of religious discrimination.
A Muslim American woman has alleged that a Southwest Airlines flight attendant forced her to move from her seat on the emergency exit row because she “couldn’t speak English” and “would bring the whole plane down in an emergency”.
Fatima Altakrouri and her sister Muna Kowni were traveling from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Dallas on May 22, when they spotted two seats together in the emergency exit row.
Fatima, who is the only one of the pair to wear a hijab, sat down with Muna prompting a flight attendant to allegedly say only Fatima would need to move as she could not speak English, before telling other passengers that she “would bring down the whole plane.”
The sisters say they had been speaking in Arabic when boarding, however, the flight attendant didn’t back down, even when Fatima spoke with her in English.
“We were down there for a family emergency, my mom was dying in the hospital … so, we were expecting at least to have a good flight back home, stress-free,” Muna said.
“I took it just as a terrorist comment,” Fatima said.
“If I were to say something like that, I would be kicked off the plane. I don’t understand why she would say something like that. That makes me look like I am some kind of terrorist and I am not.”
A complaint has been filed with Southwest Airlines and another with the US Department of Transportation, according to her lawyer Marwa Elbially.
Elbially described the incident as “religious discrimination,” and said that it’s in “direct violation of federal law.”
“There is no valid basis for believing that Fatima does not speak English,” she said.
In a statement to NBC 5, a Southwest Airlines spokesperson wrote, “Our reports do not support claims made by the passenger…individuals seated in an exit row are required to verbally indicate that they can perform certain duties inflight.
“Our Crew is responsible for getting that confirmation from a passenger before seating them in an overwing exit row and was unable to gain acknowledgment from the passenger during boarding.”