An 18-month-old girl was mistakenly pulled off a flight because airline employees thought her name was on the US no-fly list.

The child's parents have told an ABC television network affiliate, WPBF, that they believe they were targeted because they are of Middle Eastern descent and the mother wears a hijab.

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

JetBlue airline on Thursday blamed a computer glitch, saying employees followed proper protocol. The US Transportation Security Administration says the girl was not flagged by the agency.

The family was cleared to re-board. But they declined, saying they were too embarrassed.

AP