One of Several Passengers Kicked off Spirit Airlines Flight Claims Racial Discrimination
"It started by a guy having a seating issue with someone," a passenger said.
— -- Several travelers were kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight preparing to leave Los Angeles for Dallas on Monday, and at least one of the passengers claims it was due to racial discrimination.
The incident began shortly after 7 p.m., when Spirit Airlines called Los Angeles Airport Police to assist with an unruly passenger, LAX Police spokesman Robert Pedregon told ABC News.
LAX police arrived at the plane and found a man, traveling with a woman, who refused to deplane, police said.
Passenger Alexandra Wright said via-Skype that, "It started by a guy having a seating issue with someone."
"A man was sitting in the wrong seat. And he and the woman were supposed to switch seats but they decided they wanted to sit together, the flight attendant overheard the conversation and he came over, and kind of was making nasty remarks, making them switch," Wright said.
"[The flight attendant] was just really nasty towards him and was like, 'No, you guys need to switch,'" Wright said. "[The male passenger] politely got up and switched seats, and the flight attendant continued to make really mean, nasty remarks towards the passenger ... and the guy was like 'No, I'm not leaving, I don't have a reason to get off this flight. I didn't do anything wrong.'"
Witness Tyler Grosso told ABC News the flight attendant yelled at a man, saying he threatened him.
"The man never threatened the flight attendant," Grosso said. "Multiple people were standing up for him saying he never said anything."
According to police, Spirit Airlines told the authorities that the airline was refusing to let the couple continue on to Dallas.
Police spoke to the man, and eventually the man and woman both walked off the plane to the ticket counter where they were re-booked on another flight, police said. Both were African American, witnesses said.
"And that's when people started talking about it on the aircraft because he was kicking him off for no reason," Wright said. "The first guy got kicked off, another woman got kicked off after him and then all of us got kicked off."
After the first two travelers were removed, five other passengers on board the plane started to cause a disturbance, according to police, and they were also asked by Spirit to deplane. All five of those passengers were also African American, witnesses said.
According to Grosso, in the second incident, a different flight attendant yelled at a black passenger for talking, and then yelled at another black passenger who asked for the attendant's attention. The attendant then called for more police, Grosso said.
The attendants told the police "they were 'threatened' by these African American passengers who were doing simply nothing but sitting in their seats." Grosso said.
"None of the passengers were aggressive or threatening," Grosso said. "Something that stuck in my head was one gentleman on the verge of tears saying he was only getting off the plane because the cop needed a reason to shoot him. Racism is not okay.”
Wright said she was one of the five passengers removed in the second group.
"It wasn't even that rowdy," Wright explained. "People were just more disturbed with what they were seeing."
"It was a discrimination thing, because there was so much conversation going on the flight about what was going on, and the black people happened to get singled out and kicked off," Wright said.
Those five additional passengers who got off the plane were also re-booked, police said.
Spirit Airlines spokesman Paul Berry said in a statement to ABC News: "We are expeditiously investigating this incident. Spirit does not tolerate any form of discrimination. Our primary concern is always the safety of our customers and team members."
No arrests were made, police said, adding that the police classified this as a "business dispute."
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