A mother flying with her husband and children was left in tears after her request to sit with them led to cabin crew threatening to kick her off the plane.

The event which occurred on a Southwest Airlines flight from Houston to Washington in the States generated outrage after her husband, Mehdi Hasan, shared the family's experience.

Hasan, a UK-born journalist with Al Jazeera English, said that the airline's treatment of his wife was "not a good look."

Southwest Airlines, which operates an "open seating" policy does not allocate spaces to passengers, allowing them to take places on a first-come-first-served basis.

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It also means that passengers are free to switch seats. Medhi said that when his wife asked to trade seats to sit closer to the family the flight staff took exception to this request.

Tweeting at the handle @mehdirhasan, Hasan said his wife was threatened to be "'escorted off the plane' for making people feel 'uncomfortable'."
He said that the situation was "escalated rather than de-escalated" after the cabin crew member theatened to summon ground staff to the plane.

While, according to Hasan, the passenger with whom his wife had asked to swap seats was fine with the arrangement, it was the cabin crew member who took exception to the switch.

He accused the cabin crew member of treating his wife "like a venomous snake," ostensibly because of her headscarf and the colour of her skin.

Hasan said the colleagues of the attendant couldn't understand "why the flight attendant wouldn't shut up and let things go so we could take off."

"Thanks @SouthwestAir for ruining the end of our Thanksgiving trip and leaving my wife in tears – because she wanted us all to sit together as a family while your flight attendant wanted to single her out and humiliate her. Thanks a lot."

Southwest replied for comment saying that they had responded to Hasan's tweet by investigating the incident on board flight SW5539.

"Once we learned about the customer's social media message, we began to research the flight and gather information internally.

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"We also reached out to the customer directly to discuss his family's experience prior to departure.

In a statement to The Sun Online the airline said the altercation came about over seat allocation.

"From our initial discussions, we understand that some passengers on Flight 5539 were involved in a disagreement over seat selection near the end of boarding. (Southwest does not assign seats; customers select their seats as they board the aircraft.)

"The flight crew requested a customer service supervisor come on-board to help address the situation, and the conversation was resolved before the plane left the gate.

"The family was able to sit together and the flight arrived safely in Washington, D.C. on Sunday night. We remain in communication with the customer who sent the tweet and are working to address his concerns directly."

While Hasan has confirmed that he and his family have received a private apology and the offer of future fares, he is still waiting for a refund and a public apology for the embarrassment.

"There was no disagreement, only a flight attendant who was trying to incite passengers against my hijab-wearing wife."

Hasan and his wife have been contacted for further comment.