A couple and their 18-month-old child were pulled off a JetBlue flight in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Tuesday night by an airline employee, who told them the Transportation Security Agency wanted a word with them. It turned out that the little girl had allegedly popped up on a no-fly list.
According to a report at local ABC News affiliate WPBF, the couple thinks they – or, more precisely, their toddler – were “profiled because they are both of Middle Eastern descent,” although another account says they were actually “born and raised in New Jersey,” which is where the flight was headed.
Riyanna’s mother wears a hijab, a traditional head scarf. That’s why they have asked to remain anonymous. They said they’re concerned about repurcussions. That said, they are both Americans, born and raised in New Jersey, just like their daughter.
Riyanna’s parents said once they were taken off the plane, they were met by TSA agents and made to stand in the terminal for about 30 minutes.
“We were put on display like a circus act because my wife wears a hijab,” Riyanna’s father said.
If it’s any consolation to Riyanna’s dad, lots of people are treated as circus acts by the TSA, and thus far it seems like the majority of them haven’t been of Middle Eastern extraction.
After half an hour, the couple was allowed to reboard the plane, although no apology or explanation for little Riyanna’s brief tenure as a designated terror threat was offered. They said they were embarrassed, and chose to leave the airport instead. Riyanna’s father said he intends to retain an attorney to pursue the matter further.
An intense round of high-energy aerobic finger-pointing ensued:
WPBF contacted JetBlue and was told this was an issue with the Transportation Safety Administration. JetBlue also said both it and the TSA are investigating the incident. But the TSA disagreed, telling WPBF this is an airline issue and therefore, it is not investigating. The TSA also said that since Riyanna and her parents were issued boarding passes, that means they had been cleared by the TSA and were definitely not on the no-fly list.
So, the official account of this incident is that JetBlue employees decided this little girl was no-fly material (based, presumably, upon her name), dragged the family off the plane, and collared a couple of TSA agents for half an hour of security theater? That seems odd, but on the other hand, if this really was a problem with the no-fly list, it should have cropped up before the boarding passes were issued, as the TSA stated.
No account I have read of the incident suggests the little girl was behaving in a disruptive manner, which in any event would not justify telling the parents she was on a no-fly list, or spending half an hour with TSA agents.