Southwest Airlines responds to criticism after removing passenger

Rumors are flying after an Iraqi student was asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight for speaking Arabic. In a statement, the organization claims it was following protocol.

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Southwest Airlines’ media relations managers are on the defensive.

This week, reps worked to clarify allegations that circulated earlier this month that the airline removed a passenger for speaking Arabic on one of its flights.

A spokesperson refuted that claim in a two-paragraph statement, which said 26-year-old Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was removed from a plane after another passenger heard him make “comments perceived to be threatening” in Arabic.

Here’s more from the Southwest statement:

Our Crew responded by following protocol, as required by federal law, to investigate and report to law enforcement agencies any potential threat to civil aviation. It was the content of the passenger’s conversation, not the language used, that prompted the report leading to our investigation. Once the report was made, an Arabic-speaking Southwest Manager at LAX participated in the decision to request the passenger leave the aircraft and continue the conversation in the gate area. Federal law enforcement agents became involved and conducted their own investigation.

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