Fearing the worse from a pair of Middle Eastern men speaking Arabic boarding the same plane as him, a man shared his concerns with a flight attendant who quickly had the men removed from the flight.
However, the two men, Maher Khalil and Anas Ayyad, accused Southwest airlines of discrimination and called police.
When police arrived, they interrogated the men and eventually determined that they did not have any malicious intent, allowing them to board the plane and fly from Chicago to Philadelphia where they run a pizza parlor.
But even after they boarded the plane Wednesday night, passengers were still uneasy, demanding to know what they were carrying in a box.
According to NBC Chicago:
“We’re walking down the aisle and I’d already told him [Ayyad] to smile and act like nothing was wrong. But then people kept asking me, ‘What’s in that box?!’ I was carrying a small white box. And the passengers made me open the box!”
“So I shared my baklava with them.”
Khalil and Ayyad said they are American citizens who emigrated from Palestine 15 years ago.
Earlier that day, six Middle Eastern passengers were removed from another Southwest flight from Chicago to Houston because passengers were afraid to fly with them.
According to KCBD:
A group of Arabic-speaking men were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight in Houston.
Flight 126 was about to leave Chicago when passengers say a group of six to eight men made a fuss because they wanted to all sit together.
According to the passengers, the men were of middle eastern descent and began instructing passengers who were already seated to move.
That made some people nervous, including the pilot, who ultimately kicked them off of the plane.
Passenger Michael Hust said, “The uneasiness for me sitting behind them that they were just constantly looking around trying to figure out where everyone was sitting and it was kind of like, hey, we are all going to the same place.”
K-9’s searched the plane before it took off.
“Safety is our primary focus, and our employees are trained to make decisions to ensure that safety, and to safeguard the security of our crews and customers on every flight,”Southwest Airlines said in a statement.
Earlier this week, another Middle Eastern man preparing to fly from Baltimore to Chicago was also removed from a plane after a passenger spotted him watching a news report on a smartphone.