Two Philadelphians were delayed on a flight back from Chicago’s Midway Airport because a passenger was uncomfortable with them speaking Arabic, they said.
“We’re American citizens just like everybody else,” Maher Khalil told NBC 10 last night. He couldn’t be reached today at Pizza Point, the Feltonville pizza shop he owns.
Khalil, 29, and Anas Ayyad, 28, said they were profiled while attempting to board a Southwest Airlines flight back from Chicago to PHL on Wednesday night. A gate agent told them they wouldn’t be allowed to board after another passenger said she was uncomfortable flying with them after hearing the pair speaking Arabic. Khalil and Ayyad moved to Philadelphia from Palestine 15 years ago, they told NBC 10. Kahlil told Fox 29 he is a U.S. citizen.
The two called 911 after being denied entry to the flight. The two were held at the counter for about 20 minutes. “After like 20 minutes of waiting, holding me, making me feel like I’m a terrorist in front of everyone in the airport — passengers coming by, asking what’s going on,” Khalil told Fox 29. Eventually, the pair were allowed to fly home to Philadelphia, though the flight was delayed.
Khalil said, once on the flight, passengers kept asking him what was in the white box he was carrying. So he shared his baklava with fellow passengers on board.
“Safety is our primary focus, and our Employees are trained to make decisions to ensure that safety, and to safeguard the security of our Crews and Customers on every flight,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement. The company called the incident before Flight 6599 departed a “brief disagreement with two customers during the boarding process.”
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