Officials say an 18-month-old New Jersey girl was mistakenly pulled off a JetBlue flight before it left Fort Lauderdale because airline employees thought the toddler's name was on the U.S. no-fly list.

An airline employee boarded the Newark bound flight before it departed Tuesday evening, telling the family their toddler named Riyanna was on the federal list that includes thousands of known or suspected terrorists.

JetBlue on Thursday blamed the problem on a computer glitch, saying employees were following proper protocol. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration says the girl never was flagged by the agency.

The child's parents told ABC affiliate WPBF they believe they were targeted because they are of Middle Eastern descent and the mother wears a hijab, a head scarf. The mother and father, who have asked media outlets not to use their name or face in interviews, say they are both born and raised in America.

The family was cleared to re-board. But they declined, saying they were too embarrassed, comparing themselves to a "circus act."

JET BLUE STATEMENT

 

"Upon boarding Flight 510 at Fort Lauderdale International Airport last evening, a customer’s boarding pass was flagged in our system as being on the TSA's No Fly list. We notified and collaborated with TSA. TSA cleared the customers to travel on JetBlue.

We are investigating this particular incident. We believe this was a computer glitch. Our crewmembers followed the appropriate protocols, and we apologize to the family involved in this unfortunate circumstance.

JetBlue takes all security concerns very seriously and the safety of all of our customers and crewmembers is our number one priority. There are layers of security checkpoints in place -- from booking a flight to checking-in, clearing security and boarding an aircraft – that are enforced by the airline in collaboration with airport authorities and the Transportation Security Administration to ensure all customers enjoy a safe and secure travel experience. Our crewmembers are trained to address each situation discreetly, treating every customer with dignity and respect."

The Associated Press contributed to this report