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Muslim Woman Says She Faced Discrimination On Southwest Airlines Flight

Man looks at Southwest Airlines plane through a window at the airport.
Julio Cortez
/
Associated Press

A Muslim woman from Texas says a Southwest Airlines flight attendant discriminated against her on a flight in late May, and is lodging a complaint with the company.

On the Dallas-bound flight, Fatima Altakrouri and her sister were seated in an exit row. Altakrouri wore a hijab, but her sister did not. Altakrouri said a flight attendant told her she had to move, and that the flight attendant incorrectly said Altakrouri didn’t speak English. At the same time, her sister was told she could stay in the exit row.

Both sisters went to the back of the plane and sat in separate seats; there were no remaining empty adjacent seats.

“I felt discriminated [against], I felt like I was kicked out, and felt intimidated by the flight attendant,” Altakrouri said at a Tuesday press conference. “It shouldn’t happen.”

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said via email the company is looking into the incident.

Faizan Syed, Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Dallas-Fort Worth, said the group wants the flight attendant fired for bias and more cultural training for Southwest staff.

“Before we pursue a lawsuit, we always like to work with the company to see if they can resolve the matter internally,” Syed told KERA.

Altakrouri said beyond an apology, she thinks Southwest needs to retrain their employees and provide an outlet for passengers to report these kinds of incidents.

“I think it’s very discouraging that … it’s been about a week and a half, almost two weeks and I haven’t heard anything,” she said.

The Southwest spokesperson said the company considers the safety of passengers to be the top priority and "neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind."

“We apologize to any Customer who has a less than positive travel experience on Southwest,” the spokesperson said.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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