Four Palestinian-American men have claimed they were the victims of what they described as “racial profiling” on a Delta Air Lines flight on January 8, 2024.
The men, who are all related, were on a Delta flight from Tampa International Airport (TPA) to Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) after attending a family wedding.
During the flight, another passenger, an off-duty officer for Anoka County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota, reported to the flight’s cabin crew that the men were involved in “suspicious activity”.
The men were allegedly deemed suspicious because they were speaking Arabic and English to each other, took turns in using the lavatory, and were wearing Palestine necklaces.
Airport police in MSP airport were alerted, and met and questioned the four men upon landing.
According to Minnesota media outlet MPR News, the airport police report said: “She (the off-duty officer) said she watched them get up multiple times to go use the bathroom, and as each one came back they would whisper with their arms around each other. She said she found their behavior odd and decided to get up and get some water. While doing so, she approached them and asked if they were on a guys [sic] trip.”
The woman then told police that the passengers told her that they were “CIA on a secret mission,” and pointed to a black bag.
One of the men, Louay Adley, reportedly said that he had actually replied: “We had a wedding mission to complete.”
After interviewing the four men, officers determined that no crime had been committed and allowed the men to go.
One of the men’s sisters, Minnesota-based journalist Mnar Adley, took to X (formerly Twitter) to denounce the incident.
According to Adley, several other Arabic speaking and Muslim passengers were taken off the plane by airport security. They were then held and questioned.
“They were all racially profiled and treated as suspects,” Adley said in a post.
Adley also included photographs of the off-duty officer who accused the four men of suspicious activity. She also subsequently identified the officer and her mother, both of whom she claimed “falsely made a bomb threat claim against my brother”.
Adley said the incident was “classic post 9-11 islamophobia all over again.”
Delta also faced backlash on social media, with one user claiming they will stop flying with the carrier for “allowing” this kind of racial profiling to take place.