Southwest Went Low. Help Us Fly High!

Dear Friend,

For the past 7 years we’ve received funding support from Southwest Airlines to help with numerous programs including making the SAALT Young Leaders Institute (YLI) possible. YLI annually brings together undergraduate students and other young adults to build leadership skills, connect with activists and mentors, and explore social change strategies on issues that affect South Asian and immigrant communities in the U.S. Through YLI, we are building the next generation of South Asian community leaders.

But because the airline has treated our communities like second-class citizens, we have terminated our relationship with Southwest.


Southwest employees have been racially profiling Muslim, Arab, and South Asian passengers in the last year, including at least five well-publicized incidents. One well-covered incident involved kicking a University of California Berkley student off a flight in April 2016 for saying “Inshallah” to his father on the phone.

Our decision was not taken lightly nor made in haste.

As a non-profit organization, the $10,000 we lost by terminating our relationship with Southwest affects SAALT’s ability to support tomorrow’s leaders through our YLI program.

SAALT and our partners sent multiple communications to Southwest, including to CEO Gary Kelly, over the last year expressing our concerns. Disappointingly, all we received was one unsatisfactory response after another.

Southwest made it clear they would issue no apology to the affected passengers nor would it address profiling in their corporate training guidelines and complaint procedures. In short, we saw no effort by Southwest Airlines to establish protections against racial and religious profiling of passengers on its flights. The airline continues to deflect any responsibility for its actions, even as the level of hostility against our communities continues to increase nationwide.

So we said “enough!” and goodbye to Southwest.

Now we need your help to replace this lost funding, and make sure that YLI can keep growing. The 2016-2017 cohort is focused on Building Immigrant Rights, a topic in which South Asian Americans have a tremendous stake.

saalt yli group

Please help SAALT replace these lost funds, and support tomorrow’s leaders today. Any amount that is meaningful to you will make a difference.

We took a stand against hate, against profiling, and for equality when we returned Southwest’s money. We took a stand for your right to fly with dignity. Thank you for standing with us and believing in the work we do at SAALT for and with the South Asian community. Since Southwest went low, we need your support to ensure that our community continues to fly high. Please donate today.

With hope,
Suman Raghunathan,
Executive Director, SAALT