A Muslim woman is suing Southwest Airlines for being kicked off her flight after a flight attendant reported hearing her say "it's a go" into her phone — though according to the suit, she was just saying "I've got to go" as the plane was preparing to take off.
Irum Abbassi alleges that on March 13, Southwest Airlines employees unlawfully removed her from a flight from San Diego to San Jose, where she was headed to finish research for her Master's thesis. According to the complaint, Abbassi "was readily identifiable as Muslim by what she wore: a long shirt, pants, sweater and hijab, or Islamic headscarf." She was detained at security for a second screening, but was allowed to board.
When boarding, Abbassi says she was on the phone with a Verizon representative in order to activate her smartphone. When the plane was getting ready to depart, Abbassi alleges she told the representative "I've got to go."
Soon after, there was an announcement that an "administrative delay" would hold up the flight, at which point a TSA agent came on board and asked Abbassi to get off. From the complaint:
Once at the jetway the TSA agent explained to [Abbassi] that the flight attendant believed that she had been acting suspiciously. Although the flight attendant admittedly could not adequately hear [Abbassi], she reported that [Abbassi] might have uttered 'It's a go' into her cell phone.
Shortly after, the complaint alleges, the TSA agent determined that Abbassi was not a security risk, and said she could re-board the plane. But at the gate she was told that the captain would not let her board because the crew was "uncomfortable" with her on the plane.
Abbassi is asking for punitive damages for for discrimination based on race, religion, color, ethnicity, alienage, ancestry, and/or national origin, breach of contract, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.