Muslim Woman Kicked Off Southwest Flight After ‘It’s a Go’ Mix-Up

Oct 10, 2011

A Pakistani-American Muslim woman wearing a hijab was ousted from a Southwest plane after a flight attendant overheard her say "It’s a go" into her phone. But according to a new lawsuit, she was just saying "I’ve got to go" as the plane was preparing to take off, according to Talking Points Memo, citing Courthouse News.

Irum Abbasi, a graduate student in psychology at San Jose State University, claims Southwest Airlines kicked her off a March 13 flight from San Diego to San Jose because of the flight attendant’s complaint. She’s now seeking punitive damages based on discrimination due to race, religion, color, ethnicity, alienage, ancestry and breach of contract.

The following is a rundown of events after Abbsi was removed from the plane. According to court papers:

"Baffled and worried that she would miss her flight, Plaintiff [Abbsi] offered up all of her belonging for search. Plaintiff even suggested that the agents review her most recent cell phone call or call Verizon to confirm her explanation that she was activating her email capable smartphone and had said, "I have to go."

The TSA agent immediately determined that Plaintiff posed no security risk and declined to conduct a further search of Plaintiff’s belonging or person or to call Verizon. Less than three minutes after she had been removed from the flight, Plaintiff was cleared to fly.

Abbasi had already gone through a second, more thorough security screening when she first entered the airport. But even after she was flagged, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) agents said she wasn’t a security risk. Still, Southwest Airlines flight officials did not let her re-board because the crew was "uncomfortable" with her on the plane.