SAN DIEGO – All passengers on an American Airlines overnight flight to Chicago were ordered off a plane after complaints about a group of Arabic-speaking Iraqi men who were on their way home to Detroit.
The incident forced passengers to stay overnight.
The six Iraqi passengers had been training U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton and worked for Defense Training Systems, a unit of the Alaska-based International Logistics Services Corp., said Dave Stephens, the company's chief executive officer.
"They did nothing wrong," Stephens said Wednesday. A company press release called it "an unfortunate situation for all flight passengers."
Local law enforcement questioned the men, who were quickly released, said American spokesman Tim Wagner. The Transportation Security Administration did not get involved, said agency spokesman Nico Melendez.
Details of what happened before American Flight 590's scheduled departure late Tuesday were sketchy.
A passenger who was traveling with two children got into an argument with the Iraqi men, Wagner said. He declined to comment on the substance of the dispute.
Stephens confirmed a report by San Diego television station XETV-TV that some passengers complained after hearing the men speak Arabic, but he declined to elaborate.
"I wish I could say more because I have personal feelings, but this is what I'm allowed to say," he said.
The Iraqis were training Marines headed to Iraq, XETV reported.
The plane returned to the terminal at 11:26 p.m. and was held overnight because of an 11:30 p.m. curfew at Lindbergh Field. There were 126 passengers booked on the flight.
The flight left San Diego Wednesday morning and arrived in Chicago in the late afternoon.