A Maryland woman who was forcibly removed from a Southwest Airlines flight last week says she was racially and religiously profiled by airline employees and authorities at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Anila Daulatzai, a 46-year-old professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, was kicked off a Sept. 26 flight from BWI to Los Angeles during the boarding process. Southwest says Daulatzai complained to the flight crew about the presence of a service dog in the cabin and told them she had a life-threatening pet allergy.
Daulatzi could not produce medical documentation showing she couldn’t safely fly with animals in the cabin, and flight attendants told her she would have to de-plane, according to Southwest. When she refused to leave her seat, Maryland Transportation Authority police officers were called to take her off the aircraft.
In a statement released Wednesday Daulatzai’s lawyers laid out a wildly different version of the story.
They allege that she never claimed her allergies were life-threatening, and that she was never asked by airline personnel to produce a medical certificate. Daulatzai was not ordered to leave the plane for safety reasons, they say, but because she is a “woman, a person of color, and a Muslim.”
“She survived sexism, racial profiling, and police brutality that fateful day,” the Reston, Va.-based law firm Hall & Sethi wrote. “Her mistreatment was particularly distressing because she is presently pregnant with her first child.”
Now-viral video captured by a Southwest passenger shows a trio of MTA police officers wrestling down the aisle with the flustered Daulatzai while she screams “Don’t touch me!”
After being removed from the plane, Daulatzai was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order, disturbing the peace, obstructing and hindering a police officer and resisting arrest.
MTA police defended the officers’ handling of the situation, telling The Washington Post that “[d]espite her clear attempt to resist a law enforcement officer, Ms. Daulatzai was professionally removed from the aircraft within the guidelines of the MDTA Police. This remains an open case that will be handled in the appropriate venue, not through various media channels.”
Daulatzai says she is two months pregnant and was traveling to Los Angeles to care for her elderly father follow a surgery. In an interview with ABC News broadcast Thursday, she blamed the incident on the Southwest crew’s poor “conflict resolution skills” and accused them of racial bias.
“They just didn’t trust me. I was a brown woman with a hoodie,” she said.
Repeating previous statements about the incident, Southwest spokesperson Chris Mainz told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the company was “disheartened by the way this situation unfolded” and has apologized to Dalautzai.
Mainz said the flight crew’s actions complied with company policy.
“Our policy states that a Customer (without a medical certificate) may be denied boarding if they report a life-threatening allergic reaction and cannot travel safely with an animal onboard,” Mainz wrote in an email. “Our Flight Crew made repeated attempts to explain the situation to the Customer, however, she refused to deplane and law enforcement became involved.”
Daulatzai says she suffered physical and mental trauma as a reslt of her removal from the flight. She plans to bring legal action against Southwest, her lawyers told ABC News.
This report, by Will Racke, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.