Waris Ahluwalia, a prominent turban-wearing Sikh model, actor and fashion designer was prevented from boarding an Aeroméxico flight to New York today (February 8).
Ahluwalia, who previously made headlines in 2013 for being the first Sikh male model featured in a Gap campaign, reported on the incident via two Instagram posts:
In the first post, the letters "SSSS" are circled, which the New York Daily News reports are used to signal "security personnel that the customer has been flagged for enhanced pat-downs, having their possessions swabbed and tested for explosive residue, and being wanded by a hand-held metal detector." Ahluwalia told the Daily News that he’s received the supposedly-random designation before.
Ahluwalia was set to fly from Mexico City to New York for New York Fashion Week. He told the Daily News that security personnel blocked him from entering the plane until after everyone else had boarded. His said that his request to be searched in a private room was denied, and that he refused to submit when they asked him to remove his turban:
“That is not something that I would do in public,” he explained. “That’s akin to asking someone to take off their clothes.”
Ahluwalia was not permitted to board the flight. The Huffington Post cited an e-mail from an Aeroméxico spokesperson that apologized for the incident:
"About the situation of passenger Waris Ahluwalia, Aeromexico reports that he was asked to submit to screening and inspection before boarding, in strict compliance with TSA protocol," the spokesperson said in an email to HuffPost. "We have offered the passenger to [sic] alternatives to reach his destination as soon as possible. We sincerely regret any inconvenience caused by this incident."