Iraqi passengers sue airline
A group of Iraqi Pentagon contractors is suing American Airlines claiming racial discrimination for delaying its flight, but a police report shows that some of the men might have been intoxicated, behaved in a frightening and belligerent manner and scared one family off the plane.
The captain of American Airlines Flight 590 from San Diego to Chicago delayed the late-night Aug. 28 takeoff after crew members reported that they “did not feel safe,” according to the report obtained by The Washington Times.
The Iraqi men filed the lawsuit two weeks ago in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan, where they live, saying they were falsely identified as “posing a risk to security by reliance on racial profiling and through discrimination based on race and national origin.”
The captain did not alert the passengers to any danger and instead said the plane had to return to the gate because of an 11:30 p.m. airport curfew.
The men left the plane with the other passengers, but the lawsuit says they were singled out and removed from the flight because they spoke to one another in Arabic.
Once inside the gate area, the lawsuit states, the men “were pulled aside from a crowd of roughly 120 passengers as ‘persons of suspicion’ inappropriately thought to pose a threat to security.”
However, a Port of San Diego police officer reported that he was first approached by one of the men, Dave Al-Watan, “who asked me what the problem was.”
The officer said in his report that Mr. Al-Watan had “red, watery eyes and had the odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath.” Another officer who approached the group said he smelled alcohol but could not pinpoint who might have been drinking.
Mr. Al-Watan raised his voice to the officers and asked whether the flight had been delayed “because we are from Iraq? Is that why we were removed from the plane?”
Turning to the passengers, Mr. AlWatan continued in a loud voice: “I am an American citizen, and I work for the Marines. Just leave us off the plane, tell the other people they can fly without us if that’s what they want.
“I want a report. This is America. You can’t treat people like this. I am going to sue the airlines,” Mr. AlWatan said.
Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines, said the company stands by the flight crew’s actions and that the plane returned to the gate “because of potential security issues.”
“The crew felt it was better, and safer, for all the passengers to return to the gate to resolve issues occurring onboard, rather than letting any situation potentially escalate in-flight,” Mr. Smith said.
The men were permitted to fly home on the airline the next day.
The lawsuit says the men suffered damages in the form of “embarrassment, humiliation and mortification; fright and shock; mental anguish and emotional distress; denial of social pleasure and enjoyments; actual monetary damages in the form of costs associated with travel delay.”