ADC, ACLU File Lawsuits against United, Continental, American Airlines

WASHINGTON, DC — Four civil rights lawsuits filed across the country today accuse American, Continental, Northwest and United Airlines of blatant discrimination against five men who were ejected from flights based on the prejudices of airline employees and passengers and for reasons wholly unrelated to security.
The lawsuits were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of five men, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is a co-plaintiff in three of the cases. The lawsuits were filed simultaneously in Los Angeles, Maryland, New Jersey and San Francisco. Four of the passengers are United States citizens and the fifth is a permanent legal resident; two of the five are of Arab descent.
While details of the incidents vary, the cases share certain key elements: the men are all of Middle Eastern or Asian appearance; they had all passed rigorous security checks and were cleared to board; they were all ejected after passengers or flight crews said that they “felt uncomfortable” with them on board; they were all immediately offered seats on subsequent flights without any further security checks; and the incidents all occurred more than a month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, some as late as New Year’s Eve.
ADC President Ziad Asali said, “We are as committed to the security of the United States as any other American community. However, these ejections had nothing whatever to do with security. These men were removed from their flights, but were subjected to no further questioning or searches. They were simply discriminated against because of their perceived ethnicity, and, as the Department of Transportation has pointed out, this is not only immoral, it is illegal. We are joining these important lawsuits in order to ensure that no one else is ever again subjected to this form of discrimination, and to defend the core American values of equality under the law and nondiscrimination.”
ADC does not enter into this litigation lightly, and does so only after extensive consultations. Since October, ADC has received over 60 reports involving more than 100 Arab Americans, or those perceived to be Arab Americans, being expelled from aircraft during or after the boarding process because of their perceived ethnicity. ADC has repeatedly asked the Department of Transportation to set up a mechanism whereby the DOT, the airlines, the pilots’ union and Arab-American organizations could work together to establish guidelines and safeguards that would help pilots and crews avoid acting in a discriminatory manner and which would provide all passengers with security as well a recourse in such situations. ADC views these lawsuits as a vital part of the effort to combat this form of discrimination.
NOTE: If you have experienced airline discrimination please contact our Legal Department at (202) 244-2990 or via e-mail at:

Scroll to Top