A Muslim doctor was removed from an American Airlines flight out of Florida after a woman misunderstood a remark he made to his wife in a phone call.
Abdulaziz Al Mana, a medical resident at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, was flying in June to Washington, D.C., to visit his wife when he noticed the woman seated next to him acting nervously as the plane taxied onto the runway, reported the Miami New Times.
The woman slipped a note to a flight attendant, and the captain then announced the plane would be turned around for a passenger emergency.
Al Mana soon realized that emergency was him after security officers boarded the plane and escorted him off.
Law enforcement officers questioned Al Mana for an hour before concluding he posed no risk, and the physician learned his seat mate had reported him as a possible terrorist.
“Essentially, what happens is this woman overheard him talk to his wife before the flight,” said Al Mana’s lawyer, Oscar Gomez. “He said to his wife on the phone, ‘Okay, honey, I’ll see you on the other side.’ Obviously, he meant it like, ‘When I turn my phone back on, I’ll see you when I land.'”
Al Mana filed a lawsuit against American Airlines last week, accusing the carrier of discrimination against his Saudi Arabian heritage and Muslim faith.
The doctor said he was forced to take another flight five hours later, even after law enforcement determined he posed no threat, rather than reboard the flight for which he’d bought a ticket.
Al Mana fears the woman’s baseless complaint could have landed him on a secret no-fly list or something similar, and Gomez said the lawsuit was partially intended to allow him to subpoena federal records to find out.
American Airlines said they take the complaint seriously and are investigating the incident.
“Our professional crews are there to ensure the safety and comfort of all customers as well as a positive travel experience, and we take these allegations very seriously,” the company said in a statement. “We received the complaint earlier this week, and our team is investigating.”