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American Airlines Says Muslim Activist Confronted Passenger Before Being Booted from Flight

American Airlines Says Muslim Activist Confronted Passenger Before Being Booted from Flight

American Airlines says a self-proclaimed Muslim activist who was arrested on a Newark to Charlotte bound flight had confronted another passenger before being asked by an airline ground manager to get off the plane. In a statement, a spokesperson for the airline said it had started an urgent investigation into the incident and was liaising with the New Jersey branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations to keep them updated on developments.

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh was arrested on Saturday morning by Port Authority police officers after refusing to get off the American Airlines plane. The ‘Muslim Girl‘ website, which Al-Khatahtbeh founded, claims she was harassed by the other passenger, airline staff and police before being taken into custody.

Al-Khatahtbeh explained on Twitter how she had become involved in an altercation with an “entitled white man” while going through the TSA security checkpoint because he had apparently tried to cut in front of her while she was taking her shoes off.

Al-Khatahtbeh says she went to get on her flight and discovered that not only was the other passenger on her flight but that he had made a complaint about her to airline staff claiming he “didn’t feel comfortable” with her being on the plane. She says airline staffers took his side of the story and refused to also remove him from the flight.

In a statement, a spokesperson for American Airlines says an initial investigation has already uncovered more details about the altercation at the TSA checkpoint and the reasons why Al-Khatahtbeh was asked to deplane.

“Initial witness accounts indicate the conflict began during TSA screening. Both PreCheck and non-PreCheck screening were consolidated into one open lane. Our understanding is that Ms. al-Khatahtbeh believed the other passenger, who is enrolled in PreCheck, was getting favorable treatment because he was allowed to proceed through security while she was removing her shoes,” the statement explained.

“This led to a verbal altercation that continued through the terminal and on the plane where Ms. al-Khatahtbeh confronted the passenger and began filming him before taking her seat.”

The spokesperson said American was “concerned by these allegations and our team is actively working to learn more about what occurred.”

“We have reached out to both passengers, and are in the process of interviewing crew members, other passengers onboard, as well as witnesses from the TSA checkpoint. In addition, we are working with local law enforcement and have requested video footage from Terminal A and security,” the airline told us in an emailed statement.

“We take this issue seriously and our team is working as fast as possible to understand what occurred.”

Al-Khatahtbeh has since been released from police custody, although it’s not known whether she has been charged with any crime.

In 2017, NAACP issued a travel advisory for American Airlines warning African Americans about their safety when travelling with the Dallas Forth Worth-based airline. The advisory was lifted in July 2018, citing “substantial” improvements the airline had made in addressing the alleged mistreatment of ethnic minority passengers on its flights.

Among several initiatives to become an “industry leader in diversity and inclusion”, American rolled out implicit bias training in early 2018 for its entire 120,000 strong workforce.

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