HOUSTON (CN) – Two Saudi Arabian diplomats say Continental Airlines kicked them off a plane in Minneapolis because they were “overheard to have spoken to each other in a foreign language.”
Then, they say, Continental refused to give them refunds or another flight.
Mohammed Alnahaoi and Salem Almutiry both work for the Royal Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Houston. Alnahaoi is the consulate’s protocol officer, and Almutiry is its lead counsel, according to their complaint in Harris County Court.
The men boarded a Continental flight in Minneapolis bound for Houston, “while traveling in the course of a mission approved by the U.S. State Department in aid of a high-level member of their government’s leadership,” they say.
“Initially, both plaintiffs were seated peacefully onboard according to their assigned boarding passes,” they say. “However, prior to take off, a flight attendant … ordered plaintiffs to vacate their seats for other passengers; to which demand they quietly complied without protest.
“Shortly thereafter, the same ‘stewardess’ returned and again ordered the plaintiffs to relinquish their replacement seats to others; at which point, plaintiffs produced their diplomatic credentials and inquired as to the reason for their being twice dislocated once seated.
“The stewardess immediately left and returned moments later with the pilot, an enforcement officer, and the purported terminal manager; and, even though plaintiffs provided approved U.S. diplomatic identification and quietly requested the courtesies to which they were entitled – under implied threat of force plaintiffs were escorted off the airplane.”
Alnahaoi and Almutiry say they “remained calm and subdued and caused no disturbance or resistance” throughout.
After Continental removed them from the plane, it “refused to provide alternate flight accommodations or refunds,” stranding the diplomats in Minnesota to find their own way back to Houston, the men say.
“The excuse provided for this behavior was that plaintiffs had been overheard to have spoken to each in a foreign language,” according to the complaint.
Alnahaoi and Almutiry say Continental subjected them to “humiliation, degradation and embarrassment” and treated them like “common criminals … without reason or excuse in fact of law.”
They say the airline caused them “grievous harm” including “loss of future employment opportunities and, to various degrees, credibility.”
They seek damages for discrimination, civil assault, breach of contract and deceptive trade practice.
They are represented by John Leger of Houston.