American actor and fashion designer Waris Ahluwalia, a practicing Sikh who has appeared in films directed by Wes Anderson and Spike Lee, was still stuck in the Mexico City airport Monday night 13 hours after security officials blocked him from boarding his 7:15 a.m. flight home to New York City.
On his social media accounts, Ahluwalia blamed his travel woes on his refusal to remove his turban at security checkpoints.
Ahluwalia wrote on Instagram, “This morning in Mexico City I was told I could not board my [AeroMexico] flight to NYC because of my turban.” The part-time model, who also designs jewelry under the House of Waris label, also tweeted, “Dear NYC fashion week. I may be a little late as [Aeromexico] won’t let me fly with a turban.”
According to news reports, Ahluwalia’s first-class boarding pass had a marking on it indicating that he needed to go through a special secondary security screening. Once at the gate, he was taken aside, searched, swabbed and patted down, but he refused to take off his turban.
He told the New York Daily News that security officials refused his request for a private screening room so that he would not remove his turban in public.
At that point, he was told that he could not get on the plane — or on any other Aeromexico flight — until he complied with the security procedures.
Later, he wrote on Twitter, “Update. 13 hours later. Still in Mexico City. No traveler should be subjected to what I was.”
In a response posted online Monday (translated from Spanish), the airline said that it “renews its commitment to transport all passengers [without bias]. However the airline is required to meet federal safety requirements determined by the Air Transport Authority of the United States (TSA) for review of selected passengers traveling to the United States. The airline regrets any inconvenience to any passenger for the application of these procedures.”
— Sikh Coalition (@sikh_coalition) February 8, 2016