Arabic speaker briefly kept off flight after complaint

A Philadelphia man says he’s humiliated after he was briefly stopped from boarding a flight from Chicago when another passenger overheard him speak Arabic, making him uncomfortable.

Pizza shop owner Maher Khalil emigrated from Palestine 15 years ago. He says he had never experienced discrimination before Wednesday’s incident at Midway International Airport.

Khalil said Friday he was chatting with a friend while waiting to board a Southwest Airlines flight. When he approached the gate, he says, they were told they couldn’t board because another passenger felt uncomfortable.

Khalil called the police and the two men were allowed to board.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Southwest says the flight departed 10 minutes late after a disagreement with two customers. The airline says its employees are trained to address “passenger situations” to ensure the safety of flights.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal