Man forced off plane by fellow passengers
A Spanish university professor with a long beard and dark complexion said Thursday he was briefly forced off an airliner during a layover...
The Associated Press
MADRID, Spain — A Spanish university professor with a long beard and dark complexion said Thursday he was briefly forced off an airliner during a layover on the Spanish island of Mallorca by passengers who feared he was an Islamic terrorist.
Pablo Gutierrez Vega said he was humiliated when three German passengers on an Air Berlin flight approached him during a layover in Palma de Mallorca on Aug. 30 en route from Seville, Spain, to Dortmund, Germany, and asked to search his carry-on luggage.
The men told him that other passengers were frightened by his appearance, said Gutierrez Vega, 35, a law professor at the University of Seville.
"They treated me like an Islamic terrorist because of my appearance," Gutierrez Vega said, according to an account posted Thursday on the Web site of the newspaper El Pais.
The airline confirmed the incident and called it regrettable.
"I acknowledged that we contributed to this man going through something very unpleasant," said Air Berlin's managing director for Spain and Portugal, Alvaro Middelmann.
After realizing the men were not undercover police officers, Gutierrez Vega refused to hand over his luggage. The pilot then approached the group and led the professor to the runway so they could speak in private.
"The pilot said the passengers believed I was a Muslim," Gutierrez Vega said.
On the runway, the pilot apologized for the incident and said he was willing to expel the passengers who confronted him and continue the flight with Gutierrez Vega on board. The pilot also said he could take Gutierrez Vega's luggage into the cockpit to pacify the other passengers.
Gutierrez Vega said he decided to get back on the plane and store his luggage in the cockpit "because I didn't want to cause any problems."
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