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