An Israeli-Arab and Palestinian were hounded off an Aegean Airlines flight after fellow passengers demanded they be checked for "security issues." Flight 928 from Athens to Tel Aviv was delayed for almost two hours after the two men were accused of being "terrorists."
"An initially small group of passengers very vocally and persistently asked for two other Israeli passengers to be checked for security issues," said a statement from the airline. The Aegean crew did not understand the underlying cause of the dispute at first and continued to prepare for the jet's scheduled departure on January 3. As further accusations were fired at the pair, authorities were called "to check again the two Israeli passengers' documents and identities." One man held an Israeli passport while the other had a valid Israeli residence permit.
"While it is indeed unfortunate that they were possibly racially profiling the customers, indeed their fellow Israelis...safety must be first," the airline said. By the time the paperwork was determined to have been in order, the uproar against the two men had grown.
"It started with three or four people and by the end there were 60-70 people standing up, demanding that the pair disembark," an Aegean 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 two men were offered accommodation and overnight stay and they continued their journey to Israel on a later flight. Offering their apologies to the victims, the airline said: "We thank again the two passengers that agreed to disembark for their understanding and collaboration and we apologise for the whole episode."