A pregnant woman forcibly removed from a Southwest Airlines plane in Baltimore last week and charged with disorderly conduct wasn't taken off because of a disagreement over whether her allergies posed a risk, an attorney says. Instead, he contends, Anila Daulatzai, a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, was forced off the flight because she's a Muslim.
Daulatzai, who is pregnant with her first child, was violently removed from the flight, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the Hall and Sethi law firm. Attorneys claim she endured sexism, racial profiling and police brutality that day.
"Her removal from the flight had nothing to do with allergies or safety concerns. Professor Daulatzai was profiled, abused, interrogated, detained, and subjected to false reporting and the trauma of racist, vitriolic public shaming precisely because she is a woman, a person of color, and a Muslim," attorney Arjun S. Sethi says.
According to Sethi, Daulatzai discussed her non-life threatening allergies to dogs with Southwest staff as she boarded the plane, and they agreed that she could manage by sitting away from the dogs toward the rear of the plane. Contrary to the Southwest statement, Daulatzai never asked for the dogs to be removed from the plane, did not request an EpiPen, and did not claim that her allergies were life-threatening, the statement from Hall and Sethi says.
The airlines apologized after police dragged Daulatzai off the flight at Baltimore Washington International Airport that was headed to Los Angeles on Sept. 26. While she told the flight crew that she had a life-threatening allergy to dogs, and two dogs were on the plane, she had no documentation to prove the medical condition and was asked to leave the plane, a Southwest statement indicates.
When Daulatzai refused to deplane, the airline says, the flight's captain called Maryland Transportation Authority Police, and its officers came on board to forcibly remove her. It was the latest airplane ouster in a series of incidents that were caught on video this year showing U.S. airline employees in confrontations with passengers. Footage taken on a Delta Airlines plane showed a family being booted from an overbooked flight. More infamously, video was shot of a bloodied doctor being dragged from a United Airlines flightafter he refused to give up his seat — also because of overbooking.
Reports say the dogs on Daulatzai's flight included one pet and one service animal. Her attorney says she was never asked for medical certification, nor would she have needed to carry that, because her allergies are not life-threatening.
A video shot by a passenger shows Daulatzai struggling with officers and repeatedly asking, "What are you doing?" When she says they're ripping her pants off, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police officer let go of her, but demanded that she walk off. Daulatzai says she will, but they again grab her and push her up the aisle, with some passengers urging her to leave for her own safety and others telling the police to let her walk on her own.
In the exchange, the woman says she is a professor and flying to be with her father, who is having surgery. Daulatzai was released on her own recognizance after appearing in court; she disputes all the charges.
Patch contacted the Maryland Transportation Authority Police for comment on the incident and will update with the agency's response when we hear more.
Daulatzai required emergency care at a local hospital, including for her pregnancy, and is under continuing medical care, her attorney says. She has received hate mail, including racist messages and threats of violence. There was also an attempted break-in at her home, which she left out of concern for her safety.
Southwest Airlines issued this statement:
We are disheartened by the way this situation unfolded and the Customer's removal by local law enforcement officers. We publicly offer our apologies to this Customer for her experience and we will be contacting her directly to address her concerns. Southwest Airlines was built on Customer Service, and it is always our goal for all Customers to have a positive experience.
Initial reports indicate the Customer in the video stated that she had a life-threatening pet allergy, but she was unable to provide the medical certificate necessary to complete travel. There was one emotional support animal and one pet onboard the aircraft. Our policy states that a Customer (without a medical certificate) may be denied boarding if they report a life-threatening allergic reaction and cannot travel safely with an animal onboard. Our Flight Crew made repeated attempts to explain the situation to the Customer, however, she refused to deplane and law enforcement became involved.
Animals in the Passenger Cabin
Some airlines allow no pets to travel in the cabin. Call the airline you are traveling on to learn their policy, the FAA advises, or check the airline website for information about passengers traveling with pets/animals.
Service animals are not pets, authorities say. They are working animals that assist persons with disabilities. There is no limit to the number of service animals that can be on any flight. Service animals need no health certificates to travel, nor is it necessary to confine them to a container or cage.
Passengers with severe allergies to pet dander should fly on an airline that does not allow pets in the cabin, the FAA says. You should also check with your allergist or doctor before your trip to discuss travel-related risks and ask if you should carry medications with you.
If an airline allows you to bring your pet into the cabin, the pet container is considered carry-on baggage and you must follow all carry-on baggage rules:
- Your pet container must be small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of you without blocking any person's path to the main aisle of the airplane.
- Your pet container must be stowed properly before the last passenger entry door to the airplane is closed in order for the airplane to leave the gate.
- Your pet container must remain properly stowed while the airplane is moving on the airport surface, as well as during takeoff and landing.
- You must follow flight attendant instructions regarding the proper stowage of your pet container.
General airline procedures for animals in the cabin include:
- A limited list of the types of pets that you can bring into the cabin
- A limit on the number of pets in the cabin
- A limit on the number of pets that may accompany you on the airplane
- A requirement that your pet be harmless, inoffensive and odorless
- A requirement that your pet remain in the container for the entire flight
- A requirement that you be able to produce a recently issued health certificate for your pet