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Arab passengers removed from flights

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- In at least five incidents this week, men of Arab descent were removed from domestic flights because members of the flight crew considered them threats to security, according to airlines, crew members or the affected passengers.

None of the men were arrested.

Federal law gives airline pilots wide-ranging authority, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig said. "The pilot has all of the leeway on a flight once the (cabin) door is closed," he said.

A Pakistani-American said he was asked Monday to leave a Delta Air Lines flight from San Antonio to Dallas.

Ashraf Khan, 32, said the captain told him the crew did not feel safe with him on board. He said the captain also said he wondered how Khan had gotten a first-class ticket.

"This is my decision whether or not I take you to Dallas," Khan quoted the captain as saying.

Because it was the last flight out for the day, Khan said, he missed three other flights that were to take him to his brother's wedding in Pakistan.

Khan said in a written statement that he was saddened by last week's terrorist events, but "just because the people who did this were Muslims does not mean that all the Muslims are bad."

"We are aware of the incident," a Delta Airlines representative told CNN. "We take this matter very seriously. Delta does not condone discrimination in any form. We are looking into the incident."

Tuesday night at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, two Northwest Airlines pilots bailed out of the cockpit on ropes, and an Arab man was removed from the plane.

A Northwest spokesman said the pilots left the plane because the flight crew "perceived" a threat. He would not say if the national origin of the removed passenger had anything to do with the incident.

Thursday in Minneapolis-St. Paul, airport police received a call about three suspicious men at a Northwest gate. The three were booked on flight 673 to Salt Lake City.

The police checked with INS, and re-searched their luggage. Although no suspicious items were found, and their IDs checked out, Northwest managers told them that because of concerns from the passengers and the crew they would not be allowed to board the plane.

Northwest then booked them on a Delta flight to Salt Lake City.

A Northwest spokesman said it is the airline's job to transport people safely, and the captain can decide to call law enforcement if there is any security concern.

The men told reporters in Salt Lake City they felt depressed and discriminated against.

Also Thursday, in Atlanta, Delta Flight 1706 from Atlanta to Washington was delayed when an Arab passenger was removed from the plane, a CNN producer said.

A flight attendant told the producer that a 15-year-old boy of Saudi descent had been removed because the captain was unhappy about him. The boy paid for his ticket with cash, and the flight attendant said the boy fit a "profile."

The flight attendant said three agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms removed the passenger. The FAA said no passengers were detained from the flight, but they confirmed one had been removed.

And in a third incident on Thursday, an Egyptian-American, Maged Eisherbiny, said he was removed from United Airlines Flight 125 from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Eisherbiny's wife said he was removed from the flight because the crew was uncomfortable about flying with him on board. She said her husband was not only removed from the plane but also was escorted from the airport.

At the time CNN spoke with her Friday afternoon, she said, her husband was on a flight out of Chicago, bound for Los Angeles.





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