ST. LOUIS — A Muslim man was delayed at St. Louis Lambert International Airport last month and ultimately missed his flight, he said, because of his middle name.
St. Louis native Abdallah Mohammed Eid, 28, posted video of his interaction with a Delta Air Lines employee after he missed his flight on Valentine’s Day. Included in the video was a Delta employee telling him he may have been stopped because of his middle name.
“Even if she didn’t really know why, just bringing up my middle name and that people with my middle name get flagged,” Eid said. “I felt like a third-class” citizen.
The Missouri chapter of activist group Council on American-Islamic Relations has called for Delta Air Lines and the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate the incident.
Eid had a 6 a.m. flight from St. Louis Lambert International Airport to his home, now in Washington. He got to the airport around 5 a.m. and went to the Delta ticket counter to have his ticket printed. When he got to the front of the security line, a TSA agent scanned his ID and told him he had to go back upstairs to the Delta Air Lines check-in desk.
Eid said a Delta employee issued him another boarding pass with the same information and seat numbers as his original ticket, and he had to go through security again. TSA said they gave Eid a VIP pass so he could get through security quickly the second time. He made it through security, but as he walked to his gate, an airline employee closed the gate.
Eid then went back to the Delta check-in gate to ask an agent why he had to go back the first time to have his boarding pass re-printed.
A video taken on his phone recorded the incident.
“As soon as she put in your middle name, it — lots of times, sir —” the employee responds, before Eid interrupts, asking what the problem is with his name.
“There’s nothing wrong, absolutely nothing wrong. There lots of people that — someone with your name might be on a no-fly list, and they have to go through extra precautions,” the Delta employee says.
Eventually, as Eid continues to question her, the employee contacted police. However, Eid says police sympathized with him when he gave an explanation of what happened, and an officer escorted him to request a refund. He said he’s been approved for a refund, but is waiting to receive it. He got a flight a few days later through Southwest Airlines.
Eid shared the video on social media and contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR. The organization said the incident could be “religious profiling of a Muslim passenger.”
“We’re seeking to know what exactly happened and why it happened that way,” CAIR-Missouri Associate Executive Director Marwan Hameed said. “It’s just not fair to treat a citizen as second class.”
Delta Air Lines released a statement Monday: “As a values-led company that champions diversity and treating our people and customers with respect and dignity, we’re looking into what may have occurred … at St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Delta has zero tolerance for discriminatory conduct of any kind.”
A TSA official said Eid was flagged because of a mismatch on his boarding pass and ID.
“There was a name mismatch,” TSA spokesman Mark Howell said. “It happens to a lot of people all the time. Sometimes if they’ve gotten married recently, or the name on your ID isn’t what you entered when you booked the ticket. It’s not necessarily a ‘flying while Mohammed’ thing. It’s just a mismatch that happens with everybody.”
But Eid said the name on his boarding pass is an exact match to the one on his ID. He also said the police officer checked his ID and boarding pass to make sure they matched.
A TSA spokesperson initially said Eid may have had his ID flagged because he might have been flying on standby for a later flight, but Eid said that was not the case.
“I just want to make sure that everyone gets treated equally and no Muslims have to go through this,” Eid said.
— By Rachel Rice and Taylor Tiamoyo Harris, St. Louis Post-Dispatch