An Arab-American mother from suburban Chicago is claiming United Airlines racially profiled her family and kicked them off a flight to Washington, D.C. for a spring break trip.
Eaman-Amy Saad Shebley was traveling from O'Hare International Airport with her husband and three young children on March 20, reports WDIV. After boarding and being seated, Shebley claims a United crew member approached the family and asked them to deplane.
In a clip posted to Facebook, a woman identified by WDIV as a flight attendant says to the family, "We’re going to ask that you step off the aircraft with all your belongings." Shebley’s husband asks why, and the flight attendant replies, "Because they are investigating [inaudible]."
In a second clip, a man who has been since identified as a United pilot approaches the family again and informs them they are being asked to leave.
“Now you’re coming to tell me to get off the plane, why is that?” Shebley’s husband inquires.
“Yes sir, because it’s my decision,” the pilot responds.
“It is a discriminatory decision?” Shebley asks. “What is the reason?”
The pilot replies, “It is a safety of flight issue.”
In a Facebook post that has been shared over 35,000 times since Wednesday, Shebley writes, “Shame on you #unitedAirlines for profiling my family and me for no reason other than how we look and kicking us off the plane for "safety flight issues" on our flight to DC for the kids spring break. My three kids are too young to have experienced this.”
Both video clips have raked in millions of views and comments from concerned travelers.
But United says the incident occurred due to the pilot’s concern over a child safety seat. The airline says it requires five-point harnesses, which the family did not have. A spokesperson for the airline sent the following emailed statement to WDIV:
“We rebooked them on a later flight because of concerns about their child’s safety seat, which did not comply with federal safety regulations. Both United and SkyWest hold our employees to the highest standards of professionalism and have zero tolerance for discrimination.”
The Council on American Islamic Relations of Michigan said this experience is becoming all too common for Muslin and Arab families traveling within the U.S.
“Unfortunately there’s a growing problem on airlines of Muslims being removed from flights when they cause no reasonable security concerns,” Executive Director Dawud Walid said.
After deplaning, Shebley and her family went to customer service and were rebooked on another flight.