An American Airlines flight kicked four New York men off a flight from Toronto to New York in December, reportedly explaining their appearance was a contributing factor.
When the men asked if they were being forced to leave because they were “dark skinned and had beards,” an agent allegedly stated, “it did not help,” the Daily Mail reports.
Each of the men are now seeking $1 million in compensatory and $5 million in punitive damages in a $9 million lawsuit again the airline.
Two of the men are Bangladeshi Muslims, one is an Arab Muslim and the other is a Sikh who wears a turban.
Two of the Muslim men are named in the lawsuit only by their initials -- W.H., M.K. -- while the other is Faimul Alam. The Sikh man's name is Shan Anand. All of the men are in their 20s.
“She said the stewardess and the captain felt uneasy with us being on the flight,” W.H. told New York Daily News. “There were inconsistencies of our behavior traveling as a group, because two of us upgraded and two of us didn’t.”
The other two friends -- a Pakistani man and a Hispanic man -- were not forced off the flight as they were asleep, but they were told to “just be peaceful.”
Moreover, upon being asked to leave, passengers allegedly threw “bigoted and racist” comments at men before a flight attendent intervened yet still demanded they leave immediately.
The men’s representative, Tahanie Aboushi, calls it “blatant discrimination.”
“They didn’t cite any basis of inappropriate or boisterous behavior; their situation wasn’t a security issue or threat,” said Aboushi.
“It's taking mundane basic, normal actions, things that are everyday for people, that they now have to think twice about. A group of friends trying to fly together, is that suspicious? Upgrading their seats, is that suspicious?” she added.
“But these things have become demonized and suspicious for someone who is perceived to be Muslim or Middle Eastern … they should own up to it and correct this very grave wrong. We should not have this in this day and age,” she said.