A Muslim man is taking legal action against Virgin Atlantic after he was allegedly marched off a plane for ‘harmlessly mentioning 9/11’.
Mohammad Khan, a 26-year-old graduate from Cricklewood in north London, had boarded a flight from London Heathrow to Atlanta in the US on January 8 last year – the first stage of his journey to Medellin, Colombia, where he was going to interview for a business internship.
But he said he was kicked off the plane after a ‘massive overreaction’ by cabin crew, who he says ‘racially and religiously profiled’ him.
Khan said he had been talking to an air stewardess and another passenger while the plane was taxiing on the runway, when the other passenger apparently complained about how long airport security checks take.
‘I totally innocently said “there’s been more security since 9/11”, and then asked the stewardess “I bet your job has changed since 9/11”, but she looked stunned,’ he told the Evening Standard.
The plane was then immediately turned around on the runway, he said, and when it got back to the terminal he was escorted off by police officers.
According to his solicitors he wasn’t formally interviewed by police, because they accepted that there had been a ‘misunderstanding’.
However, they claim Virgin refused to let him back on the flight, and would not refund his £560 ticket. As a result, Khan had to fork out £817 for alternative flights with a different airline.
Khan claims he has been fighting for compensation for the last 18 months since the incident happened, and his legal team have now demanded £5,000, plus legal fees.
‘I know this would not have happened if I was a white man in his sixties who had done the same thing,’ he added. ‘It totally ruined my trip and I felt humiliated. I was made to feel like a criminal. I’ve suffered from anxiety since because of how the incident made me feel and had to see a doctor about it.’
A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic said: ‘We can confirm that a passenger was escorted from flight VS103 on 8th Jan 2016 by police after multiple customers and crew reported hearing highly inappropriate comments concerning security.
‘This is not a decision we take lightly and although such security events are rare, we have a responsibility to report them to the relevant authorities to ensure the safety and security of our aircraft, customers and crew.
‘Our team has been in regular contact with Mr Khan and his lawyers, and we have offered to refund his flights.’