A group of Jewish Israeli travelers forced the Greek national carrier Aegean Airways to take two Arab co-nationalists off a flight from Athens to Tel Aviv for fear that the pair could be terrorists.
During the incident Sunday, the Israelis stood up and prevented the flight from taking off, the airline said.
“An initially small group of passengers very vocally and persistently asked for two other Israeli passengers to be checked for security issues,” Aegean said in a statement.
As the airport was about to close, the Arab passengers were offered a night in a hotel at the airline’s expense and were promised seats on a flight to Israel the following morning.
Some of the Israelis demanded that the Arabs’ luggage be checked as well, but that request was not met.
“While it is indeed unfortunate that they were possibly racially profiling the customers, indeed their fellow Israelis… safety must be first,” Aegean said.
By the time the police arrived to check the two passengers’ passports, finding nothing suspicious, the outcry had spread.
“It started with 3-4 people and by the end there were 60-70 people standing up, demanding that the pair disembark,” a company spokesperson said. “The pilot said anyone who does not feel safe to fly should disembark, and would not be compensated.
“But by that stage, the two men were in a poor state and wanted to leave themselves,” the spokesperson added.
They were compensated for the incident and flew to Israel on an El Al flight on Monday.
“We thank again the two Israeli passengers that agreed to disembark for their understanding and collaboration and we apologize for the whole episode which was indeed extremely unfortunate,” Aegean said.