Abderraoof Alkhawaldeh is a motivational speaker and an American Airlines Executive Platinum member. He claims that AA cancelled his flight because crew members were suspicious of him and another Muslim passenger onboard.
The incident occurred onboard AA5886, a Mesa-operated American Eagle flight from Birmingham, Alabama (BHM) to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) on September 14th.
So why was the flight canceled?
Alkhawaldeh, who is a top-tier Executive Platinum member in the American Airlines AAdvantage program (meaning he flies more than 100,000 miles per year on AA and its partners) ran into his friend Issam Abdallah onboard.
Alkhawaldeh told CBS News that Abdallah’s choice to flush the toilet twice was deemed problematic.
The flight attendant reported that he went to the restroom and flushed the toilet twice. The last time I know, flushing is allowed in this country…
Flight attendants allegedly also did not like that Alkhawaldeh waved to Abdallah when boarding (the two men were not traveling together, with Alkhawaldeh seated in first class and Abdallah in economy).
After the flushing incident occurred, the flight crew announced that the flight was cancelled.
Upon exiting the plane, law enforcement officials were waiting to question the two men (and only the two men). They were not initially detained, but were followed by uniformed police officers as they walked to an airport coffee shop.
A few minutes later, police officers approached them again and led them to a private interrogation room. TSA officers were waiting to carefully search their bags. An FBI agent showed up and also interviewed them.
To be treated like this, with disrespect, suspicion, profiled me, question me in public, get my bags to be checked again for absolutely no reason…This is absurd, unacceptable and un-American!
Let me just say that I often flush the toilet twice, especially on regional jets which tend to use low-flow toilets. That’s because other passengers are often too lazy or disrespectful to flush the toilet and because one flush is often insufficient to clean the bowl.
American, thus far, has very cautiously addressed the issue and not made any assumptions:
American and all of its regional partners have an obligation to take safety and security concerns raised by crew members and passengers seriously. Our team is working with Mesa to review this incident, and we have reached out to Mr. Alkhawaldeh and Mr. Abdallah to better understand their experience.
I’ve been burned before by speculating, so I will only say that if the incident unfolded as described, then flight attendants are guilty of shameful profiling and paranoia and the two men are owed an apology. No person should be removed from a flight for waving to his friend or flushing the toilet twice…
image: Eric Salard/ Flickr