Last updated: 10:11 AM ET, Mon November 23 2015

Passengers Allegedly Profiled on Flight to Philadelphia

Impacting Travel | Donald Wood | November 23, 2015

Passengers Allegedly Profiled on Flight to Philadelphia

A pizza shop owner and his friend were allegedly profiled at Chicago Midway International Airport Wednesday after a fellow passenger heard the men speaking Arabic.

Initially, the airline would not allow them—Maher Khalil (29 years old) and Anas Ayyad (28)—to board the plane, and the two men were forced to call the police.

According to Karen Araiza of NBC Philadelphia, Khalil and Ayyad were getting ready to fly back to Philadelphia where the former owns the local Pizza Point shop. The two men moved to the United States from Palestine 15 years ago, and were in Chicago visiting family.

When they prepared to board their flight home, a Southwest Airlines employee told the men to step aside, as they would not be allowed on the flight due to another passenger feeling uncomfortable about their presence.

When asked by NBC what he told the airline employee, Khalil said, “If that person doesn't feel safe, let them take the bus. We're American citizens just like everybody else. I didn't know what to do, so I called the cops.”

After the authorities arrived and the two men were questioned about the incident, they were permitted to board their flight. Once aboard the plane, the two men also reportedly dealt with discrimination.

While some passengers supported Khalil and Ayyad, others openly questioned what Khalil had in a box he was carrying. Instead of answering in anger after dealing with the ordeal, the pizza shop owner shared his baklava—which he had in the box—with his fellow passenger.

This wasn’t a confined incident, either, as NBC also reported that six Muslim passengers on a separate Southwest flight were not allowed to board Wednesday. The airline rebooked the customers on another plane.

Southwest released a statement, saying, “Safety is our primary focus, and our Employees are trained to make decisions to ensure that safety, and to safeguard the security of our Crews and Customers on every flight.”

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