Yassine Siqal, a Muslim who was born in Morocco and now calls New York home, says he believes his treatment had less to do with security concerns and more to do with prejudice.
“I will never forget this day,” the 30-year-old told the Daily News. “All this interrogation, all these questions. Then the police officer realized that this is nothing more than just discrimination against color and race.”
According to Siqal, the flight attendant first decided his behavior was suspicious after catching him yawning during the flight. The flight attendant (who has likely seen tired flyers prior to this flight) was concerned enough to ask him if he was okay. Both Siqal and his girlfriend assured the cabin crew member that everything was fine and that Siqal was simply a bit sleepy.
When Siqal nodded off during the hour-and-a-half-long flight, however, he says the flight attendant inexplicably told him to change seats. The Astoria-based waiter says that he declined the offer, preferring instead to stay in his assigned seat near his fiancée, but when officers met him at the gate, he learned that his in-flight behavior raised a red flag.
Although the company says that the circumstances of the incident remain under investigation, the airline released a statement supporting the crew members involved.
“Our crew, operating Delta Connection flight 5378 from Charlotte to New York City, made the decision to contact law enforcement officials based on their observance of concerning behaviors by the passenger toward his seat companion, including physical actions and verbal tones,” an ExpressJet spokesperson told the newspaper in the statement. “At ExpressJet, we train our crews to use their professional experience and practice best judgment to ensure the safety of all of our customers. While we regret the inconvenience caused to the passengers, the safety and security of everyone on board is our top priority and cannot be compromised.”
Meanwhile, Siqal has reportedly hired New York-based personal injury attorney Marc Albert who says he will be pursuing legal actions against the airline. “He does not want this to happen to others and he thinks it’s disgraceful that he and his girlfriend had to go through it and he wants Delta to investigate what happened and acknowledge that it did happen,” Albert told reporters.