A newlywed Turkish-Australian couple, who were booted off a Jetstar flight in Bali along with 20 family members, claim they were targeted by the airline for “looking ethnic and being Muslim”.
Sarah Aslan and her husband Muhammed were on board a flight back to Melbourne on Monday after their wedding, when an altercation led to the aircraft, which had not taken off yet, to return to the Denpasar gate where the family was asked to disembark at 2am local time.
In footage obtained by 9 News, one of the couple’s wedding guests Mike Mahmoud was seen questioning a flight attendant over an issue about the in-flight entertainment. HuffPost understands Mahmoud demanded compensation on the spot.
“Is it the beard? It feels like it might be,” he said.
He later told the media outlet: “I really truly don’t believe I was arrogant, I just wanted to get home”.
HuffPost Australia understands that the exchange between some of the group and a cabin crew member, who is also Muslim, became personal when the flight attendant was accused of being a “bad muslim.”
“Personally, it did feel like we were being attacked for looking ethnic and being Muslim,” the bride told 9 News. “That’s why I started crying. I’m like, I just want to go home, I don’t to be here anymore.”
The Aslan family said there was no alcohol served at the wedding and that none of the family members had been drinking on Monday morning before the flight.
It’s understood Jetstar sought assistance from Denpasar Airport Security to escort the group of 22 off the plane.
The family said they struggled to find local accommodation in the early hours of the morning so slept in the airport before Jetstar accommodated them on a flight to Melbourne via Sydney the next day with no additional cost.
One of the family members Selim Tutunca complained about the incident on Jetstar’s Facebook page.
“We were racially, verbally and physically assaulted by both Jetstar crew members and Bali airport officials. We have footage of all of this,” he wrote.
“We were kicked off the flight even though we hadn’t even spoke a single word to the crew members. We have been waiting for over four hours and my children are sleeping on benches at the airport. We weren’t accommodated by Jetstar whatsoever. We tried speaking to them and they didn’t want to know anything about us.”
Jetstar has disputed the claims made by the family, with an airline spokesperson telling HuffPost Australia: “Whilst taxiing to the runway a number of customers became disruptive and failed to follow crew instructions.
“The safety of our customers and crew is our number one priority and we do not tolerate any kind of disruptive or abusive behaviour. We take these allegations extremely seriously and are investigating the matter, however our crew dispute the claims made by these passengers.”
The original flight, which was already 20 minutes delayed, was then held back for a further hour due to the incident.
Another passenger has since spoken out in defence of the airline, writing in a Facebook post that two crew members addressed Mahmoud’s concerns about the in-flight entertainment but he and the family “refused to sit calmly and quietly”.
“Then the second staff member who tried to calm them again was told ‘it was racist’ and was abused, yet she told them was the same religion as they and she walks off to only be yelled out across the plane that she was ‘a bad Muslim’,” the woman wrote.
The passenger said Jetstar staff “were great, calm and did the best they could in a difficult situation”.