Muslim Woman Kicked Off American Airlines Flight, Arrested: What Happened?

Filed Under: American

There’s a story going viral about a Muslim woman who was kicked off an American Airlines flight from Newark to Charlotte yesterday, and arrested.

Several readers have asked my take on the situation, so I’ll recap what we know, and then share my general take based on the little information we have.

The side of the story that we know

The first thing to understand is that we only have one side of the story here. So in this section I’ll share the claims by Amani al-Khatahtbeh, the woman who was kicked off an American Airlines flight and arrested.

The story starts with what happened at the security checkpoint. As al-Khatahtbeh shares on Twitter:

I had the craziest experience in TSA this morning.

An entitled white man behind me insisted on cutting me in line because I was “still taking my shoes off.”

When I said he could wait like everyone else, he started going off about how he’s “pre check” and “first class.” He then proceeded to not only shove his things before mine, but then RUN THROUGH THE MACHINE and TSA did NOTHING!

Not only did they not do anything, a TSA officer had the audacity to tell ME to “cut it out.”

Y’all know if I, a VEILED MUSLIM WOMAN, had the audacity to throw a temper tantrum and run through TSA security, I would have gotten BODIED. I would have been detained, missed my flight, possibly gotten charged, etc.

Less than an hour later, al-Khatahtbeh Tweets the following:

Guys he made a complaint about me and @AmericanAir is attempting to remove me from the flight.

She also posts a live video from the flight on Facebook, which starts when she finds out that she’s going to be removed from the flight, and the recording only stops when she’s arrested. Here’s the video (be warned that there’s some bad language, though personally that’s significantly less offensive to me than her mask compliance):

To summarize, a police officer comes onboard, and al-Khatahtbeh refuses to get off the plane unless the man in first class gets off the plane as well. Since she refuses to get off the plane they end up having to deplane everyone, and as she’s deplaned she’s arrested.

My initial take on this situation

Let me start by saying that I’ve never walked a day in the shoes of a Muslim woman, so there’s only so much I can relate to, no matter how hard I try. I absolutely believe that Islamophobia is real, and I’ve written a countless number of times about the completely unfair circumstances that have caused Muslims to be kicked off planes for how they look or the language they speak.

With that out of the way, I have a lot more questions than answers. A few things come to mind:

We only have one very limited side of the story

I would have to imagine that major details are missing from al-Khatahtbeh’s story. Somehow we went from a disagreement at security to her being asked to leave the plane.

She saw the man in first class, it would appear, so what happened? What was their interaction like? Did they have a conversation? Did she record him? We don’t know…

In a statement, American Airlines said that al-Khatahtbeh got into a “verbal altercation that continued through the terminal and on the plane,” and that she “confronted the passenger and began filming him before taking her seat.” Filming other passengers without their consent does violate American Airlines’ policy.

Was the TSA checkpoint incident a big deal?

I was confused to begin with by what exactly happened at the TSA checkpoint that caused this entire confrontation, what she calls “the craziest experience. Here’s what I assumed, based solely on her side of the story:

  • It seems like she was taking her time, so the man went ahead of her; this is something I see happen all the time, and it’s something that TSA agents even sometimes encourage
  • She claims the man then ran through the machine, and the TSA didn’t do anything; I’m not sure what she’s attempting to infer with that, and it makes me wonder how hyperbolic she’s being?
  • She doesn’t say what she told the man or the TSA agents, but she claims the TSA told her to “cut it out”
  • She most definitely has a point when she claims that as a veiled Muslim woman she might be in a tougher spot if she threw a temper tantrum (though again, her side of the story doesn’t otherwise suggest that the man threw a temper tantrum)

If all of that were the case, ideally the guy would have politely asked if he could go ahead of her. However, at the end of the day I’d say the man’s actions as described by her were moderately rude and inconsiderate, and that’s it. This is hardly noteworthy, in my opinion.

Well, a statement from the TSA sheds a lot more light on what happened, and this basically boils down to the passenger not understanding how TSA Pre-Check works. Here’s what a TSA spokesperson said:

“No complaint was made by any passengers at the checkpoint. If there was a customer service issue on board the aircraft, that is an airline matter. In situations such as this, TSA has no involvement after a passenger clears the checkpoint and boards a flight.

The man was directed to the TSA PreCheck lane. The woman was directed to the non-TSA PreCheck lane, so they went in different directions to be screened. An officer told both passengers to tone down the volume of the conversation.”

How she tried to rally other passengers

Should the crew have just taken the man’s word about the situation when calling the police to remove her from the flight? Absolutely not… if that were the case. But again, we don’t know if they were only going off of what the man said.

What did she say when she walked past him in first class, and did the crew witness it, because there’s at least one flight attendant standing at the forward door during boarding?

I also find it interesting how she tries to get all the passengers around her to rally against “the man in first class.” When she refuses to get off the plane everyone has to deplane, and at that point she starts claiming that everyone is having to get off the plane because the man in first class is refusing to get off the plane. She suggests that if they had just kicked off the man in first class, there would be no problem.

Also, while I can totally understand how a situation like this can raise one’s blood pressure, she uses some language in the video that’s clearly not appropriate to use on planes, and it makes me further wonder what the interaction was between her and the other passenger.

Why was she arrested, though?

It seems she was actually arrested and spent some time in jail, and I’m a little curious why? We see all kinds of horrible situations happen on planes where people have to be removed by the police, but rarely does it lead to an arrest. That’s true even when people yell, cuss, etc.

So that leads to one of two conclusions — either they were being unnecessarily harsh, or there’s a lot more to the story that hasn’t been revealed (or perhaps both).

Bottom line

A Muslim woman was kicked off an American Airlines flight and arrested yesterday. This came after she refused to get off the plane, at which point all passengers had to be deplaned. This whole confrontation seemed to arise at least partly because this woman didn’t understand how TSA Pre-Check works.

I don’t ultimately know what happened here, or who was in the right or wrong. What I do know is that we only have one side of the story, and that side of the story doesn’t even attempt to provide full details of the incident.

There have been a countless number of cases of Islamophobia on planes over the years — we’ve seen people kicked off for praying because other passengers were “uncomfortable.”

In this case I don’t think we have enough information to really know whether that was a motivation here or not.

What do you make of the facts presented in this situation?

Comments
  1. If a person at a tsa checkpoint is taking time, it is perfectly acceptable for the next person to move ahead. This happens all the time.

  2. Given that she starts her post with a racist rant “an entitled white man” she has no leg to stand on. If she thinks it’s fair to stereotype white men as entitled, then it’s fair to stereotype… you get the point.

    Why are the most racist people in our country the first ones to claim to be victims of racism? Sad.

  3. If you only know one side of the story then why not wait till you have more information before writing about it? What does this post achieve apart from further sensationalizing a viral story based on limited, un-confirmed facts?

  4. She felt victimized because she thought the other passenger was getting preferential treatment, when the reality is that this is how TSA security/precheck works. Instead of trying to get all the facts she pulled out her phone and tried to become the benefactor of a viral outrage video. I’m getting so much second hand embarrassment from this. And I also feel sorry for all the passengers who were delayed because of this moron.

  5. I have to agree with Frog above- why not wait until there is more information?

    These issues have to be handled carefully because (regardless of whether it is true or not) there will be racial element that will tinge interpretations.

    Lucky, did AA respond?

  6. Why not wait until there is more information? So there are more clicks and Lucky gets paid more money when there is an “update” 😉 If you don’t know the reason, look for money to be behind the motivation.

  7. Frog, AT: you don’t get were we are at today–No more information is needed to pass judgement on the white guy. Add up the score: white -1, male -1, first class -1. On the other side, muslim +1, Female +1, POC +1, Democrat +1. No contest. Why do we let white men fly anymore anyway?

  8. “The man was directed to the TSA PreCheck® lane. The woman was directed to the non-TSA PreCheck lane, so they went in different directions to be screened.” (From Victoria Bekiempis, The Guardian)

    Seems like this woman has no clue how things work.

  9. “recording him”…where exactly was that part of her story?

    With all the crazy videos coming out these days, people know by now that it is best to show everything to prove that what you’re claiming is true.

  10. Wow this chick is annoying, entitled, and extremely rude. She deserves everything she gets. Nothing to do with her race, color, beliefs, or anything. She’s a terrible person who is just trying to get attention.

  11. As a Muslim myself, I think she overreacted to the TSA bit, isn’t it common knowledge people “skip ahead” if you’re taking too long? That being said, we need to know all sides before judging…

  12. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8949351/Police-kick-Muslim-activist-American-Airlines-flight-dispute-white-passenger.html
    As you can see here American Airlines did respond seems like she was harassing him for a while. Personally I’m inclined to believe American because her story is so inconsistent she says he was rude her brother tweeted that she was shoved. Honestly as a minority it’s sad to see someone play the race card when it literally has nothing to do with it.

  13. I’ve only flown Delta thus far and I doubt DL would have allowed her to board with that scarf over her mouth/nose.

  14. I hope there’s an update at some point since the information is incomplete. In the meantime, it’s pretty much standard practice that people who are fumbling around in the TSA line are bypassed by a quicker, more efficient passenger without incident or problem and rightfully so. It’s particularly annoying to find very slow clueless passengers in PreCheck. I have, however, seen plenty of rude road warrior guys who treat infrequent travelers poorly in these lines. Hard to know what happened here.

  15. Jeez, I see you had to get your obligatory mention of masks in (with your obligatory tut-tutting about her not meeting your standards of compliance). Give it a rest – they aren’t the panacea you seem to think they are. We’ve been wearing them for months in Europe now and cases are still going up and up (tho the vast majority recover pretty quickly). They have a certain limited effectiveness in certain limited environments- and that’s it.

  16. @Sel, D.
    “Given that she starts her post with a racist rant “an entitled white man” she has no leg to stand on. If she thinks it’s fair to stereotype white men as entitled, then it’s fair to stereotype”

    Aren’t you misunderstanding her?

    By adding the adjective “entitled”, she is implicitly acknowledging that there are white men who are *not* entitled. Otherwise why add the adjective? Therefore she isn’t stereotyping here: she’s describing.

    Which is not to say I’m immediately taking sides with her. Let’s see what other perspectives emerge.

  17. Tipically for that kind of morons! First that Bitch should have been denied boarding! What about wearing a mask? That’s a scarf, not a mask. She should be banned for lifetime flying AA, at least!

  18. OMG the mouth on this one. Clearly zero credibility to her complaint anyway but even if there were, it disappeared as soon as her potty-mouthed comments were heard. She also doesn’t even know the name of the airline, she calls it “American Airline” lol

  19. I can’t believe that what was said in the live video by the lady is enough to lead to arrest. I really refuse to believe so. There must be more into the story and I think it would have been the right thing to do to wait for more. Like this it really doesn’t make sense honestly.

  20. @The nice Paul no. Not ever. Saying he was an entitled white person is her suggesting others aren’t? That isn’t how it works. What if I call someone an angry green person or lazy purple person? It doesn’t work like that. Racism is racism, even against white people and it’s not okay.

  21. Sounds like an entitled racist woman looking to cause trouble and find offense caused trouble and got offended. Too bad we’re all giving her the attention and publicity she craves.

  22. The woman has a point, there is always two sides to the story, if she get to leave the plane, the other person should also have been asked the same. The fact the police only listened to one person complaint without getting the facts from both of them is unjust and unfair.

  23. For context, AA flies out of the worst terminal at EWR, and most of the time pre-check means youre given a little paper that allows you to use the metal detector and not the nude scanner. Theres no real pre-check these days.

  24. @The nice Paul

    You’re making a logical interpretation of what she said, yet in this case it’s also, ironically, incorrect.

    When someone calls someone else a “dirty Mexican” or “Muslim terrorist”, there is little doubt that they’re associating the adjective with the race/religion/gender/sexual orientation in question. It’s highly unlikely that they mean “the Mexican who happens to be dirty”, “the Muslim who happens to be a terrorist”, or in this case, “the white man who happens to be entitled”.

  25. Best solution. Everybody waits at TSA, no extras lane, No Pre Check whatsoever ! So nobody feels entitled at all.
    People should start learning to be humble and friendly again.

  26. There is always two sides to a story and I agree with the Muslim woman that the other person should have also de boarded the plane to investigate the incident, otherwise the police is taking side here. This is unjust and unfair and it will look like a racial profiling on the eye of everyone. The airline should have a common sense, which obviously did not. Besides, if it was an incident occurred OUTSIDE the plane, why she is asked to leave the plane.

  27. From an AA statement “Our understanding is that Ms. Al-Khatahtbeh believed the other passenger, who is enrolled in PreCheck, was getting favorable treatment because he was allowed to proceed through security while she was removing her shoes,”. Seems like she wanted to cause a scene. Wonder why. Oh she has a book and a blog about this very subject. She is an activist that focuses on the issue of what? Islamophobia ::gasp:: It is pretty obvious what is going on here. This is someone whose whole brand is claiming discrimination so its no surprise she rushes to pull out the camera and claim discrimination from a white man who apparently did nothing wrong.

  28. The race card …

    In the first instance the alleged incident took place at security and nothing to do with the airline

    Starting by referring to by his colour and then using profanities

    Bored already

  29. Take a shot every time she says “LITERALLY” lol.

    Claiming discrimination and causing a scene for everything seems to be her shtick. There’s another story about an incident at a post office. What a clown.

  30. @Capt Hammond – “limited effectiveness”…um…sure go tell that to Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong…it’s only limited effective for the Western world because of their inability to obey and go with wearing masks as a whole. Western people want their “freedom” but yet they are willing to die or cause others to die needlessly all for “freedom”. SMH

  31. I’d really like more info from AA before posting something like this but, that being said, it does seem like this woman is pretty light in the understanding of how air travel works.

    To be sure, I also think it’s a given that Islamaphobia is very real, but this woman seems to using that as a tool for sympathy. She would almost certainly be detained if she were to do what she claims the “entitled white man” did but, I have to question her when she says he ran through the scanner. Doesn’t pass the smell test.

    I’m very sympathetic to people who experience that sort of discrimination, but not so much to those trying to use it to their advantage.

    Again, more context would be great but she doesn’t make a great case for herself here.

  32. I’ve seen toddlers have less problems keeping their nose covered.
    Also, I’ve been passed in the TSA pre mine because I wasn’t fast enough for the professional travelers. I didn’t have a hissy fit.

  33. Stories like this a very tabloid and trashy. She’s having a bad day and trying to take the rest of the world down with her. Rise above everyone.

  34. She was violated of her rights. Period! Here is the rub:
    1. She stood in line and then she has the right to be first to go through! Unless she agrees to let a guy, who came late to the line, go ahead of her, he gas to WAIT FOR HIS TURN!

    2. The TSA agent directed his verbal abuse the the lady by saying “cut it out” when she was being violated of her rights!
    The statement from TSA can’t be collaborate and of course TSA “DOESN’T LIE” (wink, wink”!

    3. The third class guy in first class obviously complained ahead of the lady coming on board first to the Captain or at the check in line.

    The “white priviledged” guy obviously felt entitled for his first class ticket and took advantage of the Muslim immigrant looking woman given the fact the climate of xenophobia and bigots in the TSA org!

  35. Let’s make an educated guess about what happened. In the TSA line, she would have not known that she was on the same flight as he was. She was miffed by his actions, and went away from the TSA checkpoint “unhappy,” possibly “upset.” That the TSA agent had to tell her to cool it, indicates she wasn’t calm and collected. Off they both went to the gate, him ahead of her. Whether she saw him at the gate before boarding is unknown, and if she saw him board the plane ahead of her is also unknown. Either way, she saw him sitting in first class, minding his own business, as she boarded the plane. By her own admission, she was tired. She got angry and probably made some remark to him that an airline employee either heard or had reported to them. With her mouth and state of mind, it isn’t hard to imagine what she might have said. Airline folks decide to remove her from the flight, police/security get involved, and procedures are followed when she doesn’t comply. This scenario isn’t necessarily the truth, but it certainly is plausible.

  36. There are times when I -an old “entitled white dude”- go though security and remove a couple of layers of clothing electronic equipment etc .
    I usually smile and motion to the patient folks in back to go around me and keep the line moving.
    Oh how f-ing boring to see this bitch play the “race card.”
    Guess we are Biden our time with this.

  37. What’s missing in this story are facts, other than the TSA statement, which seems like a fact. Still, this all feels like ‘much ado about nothing.’ There are much more serious issues going on in the world these days so this story just feels like ‘noise’. I also think the fact that this woman is a Muslim is a red herring. That’s really besides the point. This sounds more like a class issue to me. The guy sounds like he may have been an entitled prick, and maybe acted like one too, so she got pissed and acted out. Nothing new about these types of encounters. Will continue to happen. What puzzles me is the arrest. That seems like way too much for this type of situation. That’s why I will await the facts and then arrive at an opinion. Thus far, all we can do is speculate.

  38. Totally bored with this woman trying to get attention. Who cares? I feel sorry for the passengers who had to deplane because this “entitled” mwoman was trying to attract attention to herself

  39. If I’m stopping in the security line, wether to remove shoes or put something in my carry on or anything else, I always move to the side/out of the way if possible to let others past. Seems like common courtesy to me.

  40. All I observed was that she did not have on an adequate mask. She must have had to pull her scarf up over her nose at least 20 times during her video and as she is ranting about her situation she is spreading her germs to the other passengers.

  41. Wow…it’s a good thing the white man didn’t have CLEAR too! She would have blown another fuse! Way too many people scream “RACISIM” when most have never read the definition. As an airline employee, this woman comes in with a chip on her shoulder right off the bat. It appears, from what she says and HOW she says it…she was looking for a reason to fight. She should have just let it go but NOOOOOOWWW. She has to try and stir up the other passengers. If I was one of the passengers that had to deplane because of her, SHE would find herself on the wrong side of a courtroom bench as, hopefully, someone that was inconvenienced by HER actions would sue the crap out of her! By the way, if an unruly passenger causes a diversion, wait until that person gets the bill from the airline!

  42. Its truly telling from the comments how deeply racism and privilege’s is engrained into the culture of the Unites State of America. Wealthy Caucasian males don’t even realize how deep their privilege’s is. This is blog that caters to premium travel so it makes sense people will take the side of the 1st class passenger. Its a little disturbing to watch this still happen in USA in 2020.

  43. This blog has gone from good quality airline / hotel reviews to a trashy tabloid jumping on every viral story. Waste of time….

  44. Without attempting to make any statements regarding the validity of the story as reported thus far, people taking forever to get themselves organised when clearing airport security is a global problem.

    Possibly a topic for a post in future Lucky? “How to get yourself and everyone else screened quickly”.

    The number of people who don’t even begin to remove their electronics from their bag, clear their pockets or otherwise prepare until they’re already standing at the front of the line is ridiculous.

    And people who shove their wallet and phone into a tray instead of into their bag…

  45. By saying “Entitled white man” she’s confessed that she is a racist cow with a gigantic chip on her shoulder.

    No sympathy.

    And I’d like to cast another vote for keeping this blog about travel, and not becoming yet another forum that amplifies every trifling outrage of the Social Justice Warrior set.

  46. Not that it should matter, but just for context, I’m a brown, Muslim man of Pakistani origin.

    As Lucky said, there isn’t much information available about the incident so there isn’t much to be added there.

    What I will say to all the ‘white, American’ people on this forum – guys, how did you let this culture war get so out of hand that being a white person, especially a white man, seems to be the biggest sin in your country these days. It makes you wonder if the lady’s reaction would have been different if the person who passed her in the TSA line was brown, black, pink or any other non-white colour. Better still, what if the person was not even a man?

    I’m not saying that discrimination doesn’t exist (especially at airports) or that Muslim women do not have to face any kind of problems. But it is embarrassing to see that every reaction to an incident comes down to race and gender.

  47. The comment section of this blog is always rife with unaware white privilege. I really do suggest some self-reflection before posting such hateful unaware comments.

  48. The way this lady is talking in the video for sure she riled up the white man for jumping the line at TSA. The white man went ahead and complained about her which led to her getting arrested eventually and every one being deplaned.

    She claims to be a veiled muslim woman, going by her twitter profile she is not veiled in her picture there. So the veil she is wearing is just a front for a Mask which is mandated by airlines. In order to avoid wearing a proper mask she has pulled the cloth over her face. I am sure at other times she is not wearing the veil. The airline staff should have told her to put on a proper mask before boarding.

    Also she is some sort of an activist and social media personality, who is on the look out for the next viral video.

    I don’t know how this works but if one passenger complains about another one and the police is called to take that passenger off the plane for further investigation then the person who complains should also be deplaned in order for a fair assessment of the situation by hearing both sides of the story. Unnecessarily so many passengers are put to trouble. Common sense should be applied by the airline captain/authorities.

  49. Funny how some pull the “white privilege” card. Just listen to her… what an attention seeker — but I get it: our professionally offended need their daily dose of outrage

  50. I like M’s comment above & jcil’s correct equation. Throw away “veiled Muslim” and “woman” and “entitled” and “white” and “man”…it boils down to who is the asshole? That would the lady cursing in her video…especially trying to rally support and then anyone who doesn’t is an Islamophobic, racist, misogynist. She is the entitled asshole and should have to pay a fine for the cost to the airline for the delay. Absurd.

  51. Just another one trying to play the racial card, when she started with “An entitled white man”! Enough is enough!!

  52. According to View From the Wing: “Her website has claimed that the Israeli government harvests organs, and her Wikipedia profile reports she’s claimed 9/11 was an inside job.” Additionally, in her run for Congress she promoted a very far left agenda. I think we need to know a lot more before making any judgements but certainly some additional content.

    https://viewfromthewing.com/muslim-media-influencer-removed-from-american-airlines-flight-after-dispute-with-first-class-passenger/

  53. From her own side of the story, it seems like she has a chip on her shoulder, maybe because she has been mistreated before for being Muslim. And to her, cutting the line (which is normal if someone is holding the line), is some form of prejudice against her being Muslim.
    To me this seems typical looking through “I’m a victim” lens. When you look through that kind of lens, or any kind of lens for that matter, you will always find a reason to to justify your thoughts.

  54. The lady is an American not an immigrant. If she is Muslim she is for convenience of using vail in leu of mask. Based on her video she self implicates for being racist, agitator and looking for social media attention.
    She probably perceived injustice from fellow passenger during her clearing of TSA. She spotted the fellow passenger in the first class while boarding and (I speculate here) she most likely verbally insulted him and this fact was overheard by the crew member. Also, it’s evident that her nose is not covered by her vail 50% of the time which may have contributed to be booted off the flight. She agitates the rest of the passengers causing racial divide and gaining some support from mostly uninformed colored crowd. So the whole incident in my opinion seems fabricated for attention.

  55. She blamed people look down muslims but she didn’t know she has contributed to it because of her bad behaviour. First she did not understand she slowed down everyone so she should have at least felt guilty about that but none of that, she was selfish only blaming they did not deplane the white man and causing the airline needs to deplane everyone, none of blaming herself she is part of the problem causing everyone’s inconvenience. Also, she got a dirty and lousy mouth with her languages. No. I am not white and I am not black…….

  56. She seems like someone looking for attention. I get tired of the I got kicked off a plane because I was black, Muslim, Jewish, gay, trans, whatever. People of all stripes fly AA (and all other Airlines) every day without being “thrown off for their physical characteristics.” The person got thrown off because of inappropriate behavior and just happened to be black, Muslim, Jewish, gay, trans, whatever.

  57. I enjoy how some will state our opinions on this matter are warped because of privilege’s but will not elaborate on why…sorry you shaming tactics will not work.

    Either provide evidence on how our privilege is prejudicing our opinions are just stay silent. This appeal to emotions if the final refuge of those that have no more logical discussion.

    Lets review the facts:
    -The man had Pre-Check.
    -The female did not.
    -The man gets to use expedited screening.
    -The woman was still taking her shoes off.
    -The woman harassed the man at security and the airplane.
    -She was removed.

    In my opinion, she was removed with just cause. I can’t believe if some white Karen was harassing some Black man the calls for both to be removed would come as fast from some on this website and comment section.

    For the life of me, I do not understand this Islamophila.

  58. Great posts, David, Bill and Randall.

    The sad thing is how someone so clueless, racist, irrational and biased is meant to be so influential in American culture. Says a lot actually.

  59. I read in another news article she is a social media influencer and activist and ran for Congress. Activist and influencer means she probably mouthed off and caused a big scene and made a big deal out of nothing of a man with a first class ticket going around her.

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