British Indian journalist Mehdi Hasan calls out Southwest Airlines for threatening his wife in headscarf

Mehdi Hasan

Muslim lady’s request to be seated with family taken amiss.

Looks like it would be some time before Western airlines learn their lessons in equal and fair treatment of passengers devoid of false stereotypes. The latest to join the bad rap is Texas based Southwest Airlines.

On Monday, Washington-based British Indian journalist and Al-Jazeera host Mehdi Hasan took to Twitter and accused the airlines of racist and defamatory treatment towards his wife, as the family flew from Houston to Washington DC.

The incident, which would be enough to ruin any family’s Thanksgiving outing involved an airline employee unnecessarily escalating a common passenger request.

In a series of tweets Hasan informed that his wife who wore a headscarf requested an airline staffer if she could swap seats so that she could be seated next to her husband and kids.

While this may sound like a totally normal case scenario on thousands of flights every day, things took an unseemly turn when the airline staffer began escalating the situation.

Hasan tweeted: “Hey @southwestair Not a good look for your flight attendant on SW5539 to DC last night to loudly tell a brown woman in a headscarf she’ll be “escorted off the plane” for making people feel “uncomfortable” – because she wanted to sit with her husband & kids.

“The flight attendant called ground staff onto the plane, complained about the Muslim woman – my wife! – to them, & escalated rather than de-escalated the situation – simply because my wife politely asked a guy if he’d give up his seat for our family (which he was fine with!),” he added.

Hasan said the staffer’s action seemed exaggerated and uncalled for when even the passengers and another co-staffer seemed to think that the situation was being escalated.

“Even her own @SouthwestAir colleagues from the ground staff who came onboard to check things wondered why the flight attendant wouldn’t shut up and let things go so we could take off.” he wrote.

“Why is she escalating this?” a passenger from across the aisle also asked aloud.”

The airline sensing the commotion Hasan’s tweets were already creating on social media sent a message to Hasan saying: “Thank you so much for reaching out to let us know about your and your wife’s experience last night, Mehdi. We take concerns about our Customer Service extremely seriously, and we would love to take a close look at this situation. Will you please DM your confirmation number?”

Hasan’s tweets quickly gained momentum on social media and many users rallied behind the presenter.

One user also posted a picture of her ticket stub and told SouthWest that she would cancel her ticket and frequent flyer status if the issue was not immediately addressed.

Overwhelmed by the quick response of many twitterati, the Intercept host thanked everyone who replied to his tweets about the racist treatment meted out to his wife.

It may be noted that Southwest Airlines was involved in another row back in 2015 when it reportedly singled out Middle Eastern passengers heard talking in Arabic.


  1. I’m very sorry to hear that happened to Mehdi Hasan family what’s going on in the world today that’s crazy

  2. Ibrahim Ahmed

    A lot of extra things are happening against moslims Americans and on anybody with moslim names under the excuses of keeping us safe on the air. Unnecessary extra searching are conducted by many airliners just because of your name. They make you hate flying but you have no better alternatives. We don’t know when it gonna end. Cases must be made in the courts to stop these unnecessary scrutinies by many airliners. Thank you Mehdi Hasan for courageously talking about the discrimination your wife went through.

  3. Uh, they could have boarded together had they had consecutive numbers. Shame on him unless they had C53.

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