- Friends had been flying back from Toronto to New York when they boarded the American Airlines flight last month
- Two friends in business class claim they were immediately ordered to leave the plane without explanation
- Other pair of friends say they were surrounded by passengers making racist comments before they were also told to go
- The $9 million lawsuit against the airline alleged staff told them they made the stewardess and captain feel ‘uneasy’
- Friends, three Muslim and one Sikh, were also told appearance ‘did not help’ the lawsuit alleges
- Lawyer for the men claimed they had been thrown off in a case of ‘blatant discrimination’
Four Brooklyn friends are suing after they claim they were kicked off an American Airlines flight because their appearance made the captain uneasy.
The $9 million federal lawsuit claims the airline ‘disgracefully engaged in discrimination’ after staff removed the friends from flight 44718 from Toronto to New York last month ‘based upon their perceived race, color, ethnicity.’
The men had just boarded the plane home after a trip to Canada to celebrate a friend’s birthday, when a flight attendant told one of the group to get off the plane, the lawsuit seen by Dailymail.com alleges.
‘I thought it was an evacuation or something, so I didn’t think nothing of it,’ he told NY Daily News, ‘but then she told me to take my bags and when I went back into the plane I saw I was the only one standing,’ added the fashion designer, who is identified only by his initials W.H.
The cabin crew then told his friend, M.K., 29, who was sat next to W.H., 23, in business class that he too had to leave the aircraft, the lawsuit claims. The pair had just paid to upgrade their tickets before the flight.
In coach, their friends watched in shock as they were escorted off the plane.
Personal banker Shan Anand and Faimul Alam, both 25, who had switched seats with strangers when they boarded so they could sit next to each other, were shocked at the treatment of M.K. and W.H.
But they quickly became the focus of passengers who began making ‘bigoted and racist’ comments.
A flight attendant intervened but told the pair they had to get their luggage and leave immediately, according to Alam, who runs his own construction company.
As W.H., M.K. and Alam, all of whom are Muslim, as well as Anand, who is Sikh and wears a turban, left the plane they say they were told that they had made the stewardess and captain feel ‘uneasy.’
When challenged if they were being thrown off because of their appearance, as they were ‘dark skinned and had beards’, the agent allegedly told them it ‘did not help.’
Staff had also found ‘inconsistencies’ in their behavior as two of the friends had upgraded to business class, while two had not, they were told.
‘Humiliated, embarrassed and scared’ the men exited the aircraft.
Tahanie Aboushi, who is representing the men, told the Dailymail.com the decision to remove the men was ‘blatant discrimination’.
She said that, due to her clients’ perceived ethnicity and religion, actions such as upgrading seats or friends attempting to fly and sit together were viewed with suspicion.
‘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, if that suspicious? Upgrading their seats, is that suspicious?
‘But these things have become demonized and suspicious for someone who is perceived to be Muslim or Middle Eastern.
‘I would like to know their thought process. If it was such blatant discrimination, they should own up to it and correct this very grave wrong.
‘We should not have this in this day and age.’
Two other friends of the flight, who were Hispanic and Pakistani were allowed to remain on the flight but were told to ‘just be peaceful.’
The four ejected friends, two Bangladeshi, one Arab and one Punjabi, were forced to wait at the gate to see if the captain and crew of the next flight would allow them onboard, according to the lawsuit.
Each of the men are now seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages in the $9 million lawsuit to be filed today at Brooklyn federal court.
W.H. said the whole experience had made him question his next flight.
‘I felt like a criminal,’ he said.
A spokesman for American Airlines said he could not comment as he was not yet in receipt of the lawsuit.
The suit also names Republic Airlines and American Eagle who were operating under the banner of American Airlines.