MPower Change and 40+ Organizations Issue Open Letter to Southwest Airlines CEO

Following a recent trend of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab incidents on Southwest Airlines flights, today, MPower Change and 40 organizations – representing nonprofits, civil society, advocacy groups, and netroots organizations, alongside Muslim and Arab communities across the United States – issued a letter to Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly calling for formal apologies, a review of policies and procedures, and anti-bias training for front-line employees.

The letter outlines how, in several instances, Southwest Airlines employees have accepted accusations and feelings of discomfort by passengers and staff as sufficient cause to delay, bar, or remove Arab and Muslim customers from flights. It also raises questions as to whether the airline’s policies and practices apply differently depending on a passenger’s religion or background.

The letter follows an MPower Change petition that has gathered over 20,000 signatures since being launched two weeks ago.

“Southwest’s unsatisfactory responses to recent incidents on flights have today created an environment where passengers who are Arab, Muslim, or perceived to be Muslim are wary about traveling with the airline. CEO Gary Kelly needs to assess the culture and policies of the organization in light of these incidents. No one should be made to feel unsafe on a flight or denied service because of their race, religion, or the language they speak,” said MPower Change Director Linda Sarsour.

Southwest Airlines is called on to take the following actions:

1. Issue public apologies to Khairuldeen Makhzoomi and Hakima Abdulle;
2. Review policies and procedures around how allegations from passengers and staff are elevated to become actionable and standards used for removing passengers or barring them from flights; and
3. Develop and implement anti-bias training for all staff that interact directly with customers.

MPower Change is urging its members to contact Gary Kelly directly to reiterate the concerns outlined in the petition and letter.

MPower Change also supported a letter issued to Gary Kelly last week by NCAPA and 25 additional Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations, which provided detailed recommendations for Southwest Airlines to reform practices, protocols, and policies.

MPower Change is a grassroots movement rooted in diverse Muslim communities throughout the United States who are working together to build social, spiritual, racial, and economic justice for all people.

Mohammad Khan
(646) 883-8091
[email protected]

Signees include (updated 5/20/2016):

  • 18 Million Rising
  • ACCESS of WNY, Inc.
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • Arab American Association of New York
  • Asian American Psychological Association
  • Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance AFL-CIO (APALA)
  • Auburn Seminary
  • CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
  • CAIR – Maryland Outreach Dept.
  • Center for Constitutional Rights
  • ColorOfChange
  • Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR)
  • Courage Campaign
  • Evolutionary Leadership, LLC
  • ICNA Council for Social Justice
  • Iraq Veterans Against the War
  • Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)
  • ISNA (Islamic Society of North America)
  • Michigan Muslim Community Council
  • Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates
  • Mizna
  • MoveOn.Org
  • Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC)
  • Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA)
  • Muslims for Ferguson
  • National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD)
  • National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)
  • National Network for Arab American Communities
  • Network of Arab-American Professionals (NAAP)
  • South Asian Americans Leading Together
  • South Asian Bar Association of North American (SABANA)
  • Systems for Human Empowerment
  • Take On Hate
  • The Arab American Family Support Center
  • The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago
  • The Dream Defenders
  • The Gathering for Justice
  • The Markaz
  • UltraViolet
  • Veterans Challenge Islamophobia
  • Veterans For Peace National

The full text of the original letter is available below or via this link.

Open Letter to Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly by MPower Change

Mohammad Khan

Mohammad Khan is a campaigner and political organizer from Queens, NY. He’s currently the Campaign Director at MPower Change—the U.S.’s first digitally native grassroots Muslim organization—where he campaigns to organize Muslim communities and allies in the fight for justice for all people. His work focuses on transformative movement-based organizing and building the power of marginalized communities. Mohammad has worked across electoral, issue, and civic engagement campaigning and organizing in New York—from gubernatorial and City Council races to efforts including police reform, protecting public education, and exposing political corruption.