San Diegans say speaking native language got them kicked off a flight

Couple in group says they were speaking Russian

SAN DIEGO - Six local residents said they were kicked off a flight -- not for what they said, but rather the language they were speaking.

The six people, among them a business owner, a teacher and an accountant, were seated on a full Spirit Airlines flight to Las Vegas for an anniversary party last Thursday.

However, less than 10 minutes after they got in their seats, they were being led off the plane.
"Confused, very confused," said Dmitry Bitman.

Bitman and his wife, Sana, were part of the group. All of them are Russian natives.

The two said the group was chatting about the party in their regular voices -- and only slightly louder when someone was speaking across the aisle -- when an airline worker walked up to them.

"He just said, 'This row needs to get up and leave now,'" said Sana Bitman.

All six were led off the plane. Another friend, a few rows back, was not escorted off.

"It was humiliating to be treated that way," said Sana Bitman.

With the Boston Marathon bombing suspects in the back of their minds, the Bitmans said they were told by an airline employee that "the stewardesses were intimidated by us speaking a different language."

The couple said they never received a warning from a flight attendant to quiet down.

The airline worker said the group was warned over the loudspeaker.

In cellphone video provided by the Bitmans, you can hear an airline worker say, "You didn't hear it."

In the same video, Sana Bitman responds, "There was no announcement."

The group is now seeking legal counsel.

Attorney Daniel Petrov said it is illegal to discriminate based on national origin.

"They were kicked off the plane for speaking Russian; It's that simple. It's illegal," said Petrov.

Spirit Airlines has had its share of bad headlines.

In a just-released Consumer Reports ranking, Spirit Airlines ranked at the bottom across the board, in all categories.

In early May, a dozen passengers demanded to be let off a Portland-bound flight after an oily smell came through the vents.

"This is a country of freedom. I don't want this to happen to anyone else," said Sana Bitman.

The Bitmans said they got a refund from Spirit, but missed their anniversary party.

Spirit Airlines didn't respond to 10News' calls for a comment.

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