No-Fly List: Who Makes the List?

No fly list

The parents of a New Jersey toddler pulled off a JetBlue plane in 2012 can go ahead with their lawsuit against a software company whose “computer glitch” was blamed for flagging the youngster as a potential security threat, a federal judge recently ruled.

18 month old targeted

U.S. District Court Judge Jose Linares turned back an effort by Sabre Airline Solutions to dismiss claims made by the parents of Riyanna Abdallah, who was only 18 month old when she and her parents were forced off a JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale-to-Newark after her name turned up on a No Fly list, according to the lawsuit. JetBlue blamed a “computer glitch” for the mistake and, in February 2015, filed its own claims against Sabre, which provides software and data solutions to 225 airlines. The parents claim brought on behalf of their minor daughter alleges:

  • They are members of a racial minority
  • They were discriminated against because they are Muslim
  • The alleged “glitch” was a pretext for discrimination.

Judge refuses to dismiss action

The judge refused to dismiss that claim as well as others because the plaintiffs were able to show that they were members of a racial minority. “Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that they are members of a racial minority and that Sabre intended to discriminate on the basis of Defendant’s race by flagging passengers who have a last name of Arab origin with the intention of treating Plaintiffs in a manner different than those passengers not of Arab descent,” wrote the judge in his recent decision. The parents noted that Sabre’s “error or glitch” did not single out families with Hispanic, Anglo-Saxon or Asian names, only those that were Arabic. They say it’s their belief that no such glitch occurred but that it was offered up as “merely a pretext”. JetBlue issued a public apology to the family after the error was uncovered. “Our crew members followed the appropriate protocols, and we apologize to the family involved in this unfortunate circumstance,” a spokeswoman stated.

The takeaway

With the recent attacks in Paris, companies and countries will be on even higher alert. This will surely result in further debate as to interplay between national security and racial or national origin. What if any rights should be sacrificed in the name of national security? How much surveillance should the government be allowed, over its own citizens and foreign entities, to assure the safety of its citizens? Clearly all of these issues are on the table for debate. Please call us if you have questions about your own rights and obligations.

In any event, let’s hope for safe travels during the holiday season, and please say a prayer for the victims of the Paris shootings and all other victims of terrorism.

Thank you,

Michael K. Gillis, Esq.


1150 Walnut Street

Newton, MA 02461

Phone: 617-244-4300

Fax: 617-964-0862


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