A British journalist based in Washington attacked Southwest Airlines this week for allegedly mistreating his Muslim wife for dressing in her traditional ethnic garb and asking a fellow passenger to switch seats.
Mehdi Hasan, a columnist for The Intercept and a presenter for Al Jazeera English TV shows, hash-tagged the episode “#flyingwhileMuslim.”
“Hey @SouthwestAir: not a good look for your flight attendant on SW5539 to DC last night to loudly tell a brown woman in a headscarf she’ll be ‘escorted off the plane’ for making people feel ‘uncomfortable’ — because she wanted to sit with her husband & kids! #flyingwhileMuslim,” Hasan, the former political editor for HuffPost UK, tweeted Monday afternoon.
Southwest Airline’s pithy ad slogan is: “Low fares. Nothing to hide. That’s Transfarency.”
Hmmm. Nothing to hide? Sure, nothing to hide except a response to what happened here. So far, the airline has not commented publicly on the matter.
The Mirror sought comment from Hasan and Southwest Airlines.
Hasan had no further comment for The Mirror and said his wife is not speaking to the media at this time.
“For now, we’re in private communication with Southwest corporate about how they resolve this situation, and my wife’s not really interested in doing any media or going further public at this time,” he wrote me in response to questions.
Lots of D.C. political people complain about irritating travel experiences. Back in August, Darla Shine, wife of former White House Deputy COS for Communications Bill Shine, complained about JetBlue when her plane sat on the tarmac during a D.C. hail storm.
Last month, Matt Walsh, a conservative blogger, wrote about being asked to switch to a middle seat when a fellow passenger wanted to sit with his wife. Walsh defiantly and flatly said no with no remorse whatsoever.
Others complain when they see Washington bigwigs like Donald Trump Jr. on a plane. (RELATED: Passenger Gets Angry Upon Discovering Don Jr. Is On Her Plane)
And still others are too disgusted by their experience to complain. (RELATED: Journo Says His Airline Experience Is So Bad He Can’t Even Tweet About It)
One of many members of the media who use social media to call travel companies on the carpet when things go awry, Hasan explained on Twitter that the flight attendant complained about his wife when she asked a fellow passenger to switch seats so she could sit with her family.
It is unclear why the airline employee was alarmed and eventually put in a call to to ground staff:
“The flight attendant called ground staff onto the plane, complained about the Muslim woman – my wife! — to them, & escalated rather than de-escalated the situation – simply because my wife politely asked a guy if he’d give up his seat for our family (which he was fine with!).”
Hasan put his reporting skills to work, gathering damning testimonial from other passengers.
“Even her own @SouthwestAir colleague from the ground staff who came onboard to check things wondered why the flight attendant wouldn’t shut up & let things go so we could take off,” he wrote. “‘Why is she escalating this?’ a passenger from across the aisle also asked aloud. Why indeed.”
‘The @SouthwestAir flight attendant ‘treated you like a venomous snake,’ another passenger told my wife after we landed in DC last night,” he wrote.
Dr. Debbie Almontaser, a community activist who founded the Khalil Gibran Academy, a New York Arab-themed public school, sympathized with Hasan, tweeting, “Sorry to hear what happened to your wife and family. Southwest Air is the worst airline experience I’ve ever had. I flew w/ them to Nashville because the org hosting me made my travel reservations. I swore I’d never fly with them because of their loosey goosey boarding process.”
Despite the ugly incident, The Intercept columnist got a glimpse of humanity.
“Just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all of you leaving comments and well wishes to my wife and my family,” Hasan wrote. “It’s much appreciated and I wish I could reply to and thank each of you individually. Means a lot to us.”
But he couldn’t help but punch Southwest in the gut. He thanked Southwest Airlines for destroying the family’s Thanksgiving holiday and reducing his wife to tears.
“Thanks @SouthwestAir for ruining the end of our Thanksgiving trip and leaving my wife in tears – because she wanted us all to sit together as a family while your flight attendant wanted to single her out and humiliate her,” he wrote. “Thanks a lot.”
Hasan then twisted the knife by linking to a 2015 Guardian story about Southwest Airlines and incidents involving Middle Eastern passengers.
“FYI: @SouthwestAir flight staff seem to have form when it comes to mistreating brown/Muslim passengers,” he wrote. “Hadn’t flown with them for years and, at this point, don’t plan to do so again anytime in the near future. Not worth it.”