March 16, 2011 / 10:48 PM / 9 years ago

Southwest apologizes to Muslim booted off plane

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Muslim woman who was booted from a Southwest Airlines plane because flight attendants found her behavior suspicious received a public apology from the airline on Wednesday.

Graduate student Irum Abassi was wearing a head scarf when she was ordered to leave a flight on Sunday before it took off from San Diego International Airport.

Abassi told reporters at a news conference that a Southwest crew member thought Abassi said, “It’s a go” — or something to that effect — in a conversation on her cell phone.

“They weren’t even sure what I said,” Abassi said.

She added that what she actually said was “I’ve got to go,” because she could not talk on the phone during take-off.

“We sincerely apologize for the customer’s inconvenience, and we regret that she was unable to travel as scheduled,” the airline said in a statement.

Southwest said Abassi was asked to deplane because of her behavior prior to take-off, but declined to elaborate.

Abassi was given a ticket for the next flight to her destination of San Jose, California and a travel voucher as a gesture of goodwill, the airline said.

But Abassi said that the experience left her in tears.

“I could not imagine this happening to me,” she said.

In a separate incident, on Sunday a Jewish prayer observance by three passengers aboard an Alaska Airlines flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles alarmed flight attendants unfamiliar with the ritual, prompting them to lock down the cockpit and issue a security alert, officials said.

The three men, all Mexican nationals, were escorted off the plane by police and questioned by the FBI, before being released to make connecting flights to other countries.

Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune

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