American Airlines cleared on racism charges

Six Iraqi-American passengers sued American Airlines, claiming that racism drove the cancellation of their flight. The men were all residents of Michigan and were employed by a security contract firm and had been participating in training with members of the U.S. military. Their flight was canceled, they believe, because of their nationality.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman decided that the captain’s decision to return the August 28, 2007 flight to the gate in Chicago wasn’t “arbitrary and capricious.” The flight crew was accused of racial profiling, but Borman’s opinion recognized that the crew was right to be alarmed by unusual behavior. One passenger covered his head with a blanket – “mummy-like” and “menacing” – while the flight attendant provided the safety briefing. Another passenger claimed to be traveling alone, though he’d been seen earlier in the terminal with a group.

“All of these unusual actions by the passengers reasonably concerned the flight attendants, and justified their calls to the pilot,” the judge decided. “Based on the facts as (the captain) knew them to be when he decided to return the airplane to the gate, this court holds that his decision was not arbitrary and capricious.”