A Muslim man is suing an airline over claims he was marched off a plane by police after "innocently" mentioning 9/11.
Mohammad Khan, from north London, alleged Virgin Atlantic staff "racially and religiously profiled" him over a "harmless" conversation with a flight stewardess and another passenger. The 26-year-old said he was escorted off his flight from London Heathrow to Atlanta, Georgia, following a "massive overaction" by cabin crew.
The Middlesex University graduate was travelling to the US for an interview for a business internship in Medellin, Colombia.
He said another passenger, who he had not met before, had complained about the length of airport security queues as the plane taxied on the runway. Mr Khan told the London Evening Standard: "I totally innocently said ‘there’s been more security since 9/11’, then asked the stewardess 'I bet your job has changed since 9/11', but she looked stunned."
The plane was turned around and taxied back the terminal where he was led off by police officers.
Mr Khan said: "I was racially and religiously profiled. It was a complete overreaction to completely innocent and harmless comments. I know this would not have happened if I was a white man in his sixties who had done the same thing.
“It totally ruined my trip and I felt humiliated. I was made to feel like a criminal."
He said he was not formally interviewed by police, who accepted there had been a "misunderstanding". But Virgin Atlantic would not allow him back in the flight, on 8 January last year.
Mr Khan was denied a refund on his £560 ticket and was forced to spend £817 on flights with another airline.
He has since been battling for compensation and his solicitors recently submitted a final claim for £5,000 plus legal costs. Mr Khan said he would sue in the county court for breach of contract and racial discrimination if the airline did not meet the demand.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesman said Mr Khan was removed from the flight after "multiple customers and crew reported hearing highly inappropriate comments concerning security".
He added: "This is not a decision we take lightly and although such security events are rare, we have a responsibility to report them to the relevant authorities to ensure the safety and security of our aircraft, customers and crew.
"Our team has been in regular contact with Mr Khan and his lawyers, and we have offered to refund his flights."
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