This past January, a JetBlue flight from New York to Seattle had to make an unscheduled landing in Billings.
A female passenger was thought to be having a stroke, but when the plane landed, an elderly man was also escorted off the plane. That man has since sued the airline.
Abdikarim Karrani of Seattle is an 81-year-old man of Somalian descent who was on the flight. In a written statement, JetBlue flight attendant Cindy Pancerman says Karrani went to the front of the plane to use the restroom. Karrani says he is a diabetic and has prostate problems. She says when he opened the door, there was a woman inside and he began to yell at her.
"After he saw that there was woman standing in the bathroom with her back to him he shut the door immediately and then patiently waited for her to be done so he could go in and that's when the flight attendant pushed him and the flight attendant grabbed him by the arm and tried to take him to the back and he said take your hands off me," said Karrani's lawyer, Jack Sheridan.
Pancerman says after she asked him to move to the bathroom in the back of the cabin, she put her arm behind him without touching him to escort him to the back of the plane. She says that's when Karrani forcefully hit her arm away.
According to Billings Airport Police, the flight diverted here to Billings because an 84-year-old woman was potentially having a stroke. Once officials arrived to the plane, they were informed that an assault may have occurred.
Billings Police say they escorted Mr. Karrani off the plane and took him to find lodging options. He was not charged with any crimes but was asked to leave.
"He had to go find a hotel on his own expense and he had to fly back on delta the next day on his own expense basically JetBlue just abandoned him," said Sheridan.
Karrani's attorney says he later reached out to JetBlue to seek a refund for the ticket to Seattle, but was denied. Now, he has filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the airline.
"He felt humiliated and he didn't know what his rights were he just basically felt humiliated. we're basically asking for an injunction to prevent them from doing this to somebody else and we are asking for training so this doesn't happen again but you know they treated him like a second class citizen essentially," said Sheridan.
KULR-8 reached out to JetBlue for a statement on the lawsuit. The airline says they do not comment on pending litigation.