BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A week after a 46-year-old Maryland Institute College of Art professor was forcibly removed from a Southwest flight at BWI airport, her lawyers say the airline’s version of events are false.
Anila Daulatzai’s lawyers also say she is pregnant, and faced “sexism, racial profiling, and police brutality” as the situation unfolded last week.
Witnesses said what started as a verbal complaint launched into a confrontation with police after Daulatzai claimed to be deathly allergic to two dogs on board — one of which was a service animal — but couldn’t show proof.
Video soon emerged of her being physically escorted off the plane, which was headed to Los Angeles.
In a statement made the day after the incident, Southwest said:
“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.”
Daulatzai ended up facing a handful of charges, including disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
But her Virginia-based legal team says Daulatzai never asked for the dogs to be removed from the plane and never claimed that her allergies were life-threatening.
They say she discussed her allergies with Southwest representatives upon entering the aircraft, and they came to the mutual conclusion that she should sit in a seat “comfortably distant from the animals.”
After Daulatzai took her seat and started grading papers, her lawyers say, she was approached by a series of airline representatives who asked her several questions.
According to the lawyers, she was never asked for any medical certification — which she doesn’t carry anyway because her allergies are not life-threatening, contrary to what Southwest claimed she told them — and was eventually asked to leave the plane.
“Shortly thereafter, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police pulled her from her seat by her belt loop, dragged her through the aisle exposed with torn pants, and humiliated her for the world to see in a now viral video,” according to a statement from Daulatzai’s lawyers.
“The Maryland Transportation Authority Police later disparaged her, accused her of lying about her pregnancy, and made racist remarks about immigrants. They also handed her a list of criminal charges, which have no merit.”
The statement goes on to say that Daulatzai required emergency care at a local hospital after the incident, and that she was profiled because she is “a woman, a person of color, and a Muslim.”
Southwest has not made any further statements regarding the incident.
The professor’s lawyer, Arjun Sethi, released a statement saying:
“Professor Daulatzai’s story has gone untold. She discussed her non-life threatening allergies to dogs with Southwest representatives upon entering the aircraft, and together they decided that she could manage by sitting away from the dogs towards the rear of the plane. Southwest allows for passengers to choose their own seats, and Professor Daulatzai found a seat comfortably distant from the animals. Contrary to the Southwest statement and various media reports, Professor Daulatzai never asked for the dogs to be removed from the plane, did not request an EpiPen, nor did she ever claim that her allergies were life-threatening.”
You can read the full statement on Sethi’s blog.