The man, who was travelling on American Airlines flight 2829 from New York JFK to Phoenix, took to social media to condemn the airline for the alleged incident, accusing the company of being “complicit in the murders of innocent Palestinian children in Gaza”.
The man said he was wearing his sweater with the word “Palestine” emblazoned on it. He said that the clothing did not feature any “offensive or profane” material.
But, when he boarded the plane, he claims he was asked by flight attendants to flip his sweatshirt inside out – and warned that he would be removed from the flight by law enforcement if he did not comply.
The flight crew allegedly told him that passengers are barred from wearing anything political and expressed concerns about how other passengers might feel about the sweatshirt.
“What about my feelings?” he said he replied.
The man said that he “decided to comply” with the flight attendants because he “didn’t know” his rights.
According to American Airlines’ policy on passenger attire, passengers are required to “dress appropriately”.
“Bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed,” it states.
The policy does not mention that political clothing is not allowed.
My younger cousin called me extremely emotional as he was told to take off his Palestine 🇵🇸 shirt or he’d be removed by authorities from his flight, SHAME on you @AmericanAir . pic.twitter.com/C8mQbgEfmw
— s (@katchmeifyakan) November 29, 2023
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) condemned the airline over the alleged incident, saying it is “deeply troubled”.
“This action taken by American Airlines is not only discriminatory but also contributes to the broader context of prejudice against Palestinians and their right to self-identification,” a statement published on its website read.
“The choice presented to the passenger – conceal their identity or face potential removal– reflects a distressing disregard for the fundamental rights of individuals to express their cultural and national identities.
“This incident is emblematic of a larger pattern of discrimination that Palestinians and their supporters often face, highlighting a concerning trend of silencing and marginalizing their voices.”
The ADC called on the airline to issue a formal apology to the passenger and invited the company to engage in “direct dialogue” with the ADC to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib also criticised the airline over the incident.
“A young man who I have known most of his life informed me that on his @americanair flight AA2829 home from New York, he was instructed by a flight attendant to remove his sweater that said Palestine on it,” she said on X.
“Does American Airlines have a bias towards Palestinians? Is there a policy that enables this kind of targeting and mistreatment?
“He was devastated and felt like the erasure of Palestinians in our country has no limits. I emailed @americanair and I’m waiting for a response.”
A spokesperson for American Airlines told The Independent: “We strive to ensure all customers have a positive experience throughout their journey on American.
“We are looking into the matter and a member of our team is reaching out to learn more about their experience and address their concerns.”
Union president Ed Sicher said in an email to members that the company’s pilots should not fly to Israel until they “can be reasonably assured of the region’s safety and security”.