Ramsey Abdallah and his wife, Ghadeer Abbasi, attempted to board a flight at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport with their 18-month-old daughter, Riyanna, back in May 2012.
The couple — New Jersey residents — were at the airport to catch a JetBlue flight home to Newark Liberty International. In court records, family members claim they received their boarding passes, checked their luggage, and made it through TSA screening — no problem. But after the family boarded the airplane, a JetBlue employee told them they “needed to leave” the aircraft. When the family asked why, an airline supervisor told them Riyanna was on a TSA no-fly list.
Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies met the family at the gate, where, according a lawsuit filed in a New Jersey court, they were kept “standing in full visibility of other airline passengers, some of whom began to photograph the Plaintiffs... and were subjected to further humiliation.” After 45 minutes waiting, airline officials finally told the couple they could get back on with the baby. The couple refused. JetBlue didn’t take their luggage off the plane, so their bags went to New Jersey without them.
Cue the buck passing. Court records show that TSA agents never flagged the 18-month-old. JetBlue blamed the error on a computer glitch. The family has filed a federal lawsuit against the company that makes the software that flags fliers — Texas-based Sabre Airline Solutions.
This month, a New Jersey federal judge found the couple’s claims are valid, greenlighting the lawsuit.
“[The family members] have sufficiently alleged that they are members of a racial minority and that Sabre intended to discriminate on the basis of... race by flagging passengers who have a last name of Arab origin with the intention of treating [the family] different than those passengers not of Arab descent,” the judge wrote, also stating there was “no obvious alternative explanation” for the embarrassing scene in Fort Lauderdale.
A Sabre spokesperson declined to comment.