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Mystery of airline backflip over unshaven Texan lawyer

December 7, 2015 Airport, Headline News No Comments Print Print Email Email

egtmedia59A Texan lawyer who allegedly tried to push in front of a Virgin American crewmember when passing through an airport revolving door found himself banned from boarding his flight.

The incident happened at New York’s La Guardia airport.

Bobby Abtahi, a lawyer from Texas, had been on holiday in Bermuda with his wife to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.

Bobby Abtahi (cleanshaven)

Bobby Abtahi (cleanshaven)

According to an account in Britain’s Independent newspaper, Abtahi was prevented from boarding his Virgin America flight home after being told by an airline official that the captain and crew didn’t “feel comfortable” with his being aboard the aircraft.

Surprised, Abtahi asked for an explanation, whereupon the revolving door incident was raised. Abtahi was accused of having cut off the crew member as they arrived at the airport door.

Abtahi offered to apologise but it was no use. Banned from boarding, he resorted to social media, sent tweets and made a fuss.

Next day, Virgin did an about face, apologised and said the whole thing had been “the result of a misunderstanding”. It reimbursed Abtahi for the flight and gave him two free flights – which Abtahi asked them to donate to a charity in Dallas.

Abtahi is pondering a theory. He is of Iranian descent and he hadn’t shaved for a week while away on holiday. So did any perceived “unshaven Middle Eastern male” ethnic appearance influence the airline’s initial ban?

Abtahi doesn’t know, but he thinks crew should have less power to arbitrarily ban booked passengers from boarding their flights.

Written by Peter Needham

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