Bobby Abtahi, an attorney and vice chair of the Dallas Plan Commission, was kicked off a Virgin America flight Monday. The airline says it was a misunderstanding.
Via text message, Abtahi said that he was boarding a flight from New York’s La Guardia to Dallas when a gate agent pulled him aside and said the crew did not feel comfortable having him on the flight. When he asked why, the gate agent said it was the captain’s decision and went to speak with him.
When she returned, she told him he wouldn’t be allowed on the flight because he had walked in front of a flight attendant walking in the terminal doors, Abtahi said.
— Bobby Abtahi (@BobbyAbtahi) November 30, 2015
Abtahi ended up catching a flight on American Airlines.
@BobbyAbtahi We're happy to have you on board with us, Bobby! Enjoy your flight.
— American Airlines (@AmericanAir) November 30, 2015
A Virgin America spokesman said it was a misunderstanding.
“After further review, we believe this was the result of a misunderstanding and we're reaching out to apologize to Mr. Abtahi this afternoon for his experience today,” the San Francisco-based carrier said in a statement. “As an airline that prides itself on our award-winning guest service, we take issues like this very seriously. We are sorry Mr. Abtahi had this experience today, as it was not representative of the guest service for which we are known.”
Abtahi, who is Iranian-American, told The New York Times he hoped he wasn’t being profiled:
“You always think about it,” he said. He flies twice a week, and said he had discussed the possibility with his wife before leaving for the airport because he had not shaved after spending a week on the beach. “You just hope not.”
[The Virgin America spokesman] responding to a subsequent email asking whether Mr. Abtahi had been profiled based on his looks, his name or his background, said he had not.
Abtahi said on Twitter he got a “nice, sincere apology” from Virgin America.
I got a nice sincere apology from @VirginAmerica. You are now permitted to calm down Internet.
— Bobby Abtahi (@BobbyAbtahi) December 1, 2015