American Airlines may be 'unsafe' for black passengers, NAACP warns

American Airlines Boeing 757 (1)American AirlinesAn American Airlines Boeing 757-200.
  • The NAACP has issued a travel advisory warning against booking travel on American Airlines.
  • The civil rights organisation cautions black travellers on the risks of experiencing discrimination while flying with American.
  • American Airlines would like to meet with the NAACP regarding their concerns.
  • The NAACP has cautioned black travellers to be careful when flying with American Airlines.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) instituted a national travel advisory warning black passengers of potential discriminatory and unsafe practices at American Airlines.

“The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” the civil rights organisation said in the statement. “In light of these confrontations, we have today taken the action of issuing national advisory alerting travellers — especially African Americans — to exercise caution, in that booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”

The NAACP’s travel advisory went into effect on October 24 and will remain in force until further notice.

In a memo to employees, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker expressed his disappointment with the announcement.

“The mission statement of the NAACP states that it “seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination,” Parker said. “That’s a mission that the people of American Airlines endorse and facilitate every day — we do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

“We have reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns,” he added.

According to the NAACP, the travel advisory stems from a series of incidents the organisation called “troublesome.”

“The series of recent incidents involve troublesome conduct by American Airlines and they suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines. Among these incidents:

  • An African-American man was required to relinquish his purchased seats aboard a flight from Washington, D.C. to Raleigh-Durham, merely because he responded to disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers;
  • Despite having previously booked first-class tickets for herself and a travelling companion, an African-American woman’s seating assignment was switched to the coach section at the ticket counter, while her white companion remained assigned to a first-class seat;
  • On a flight bound for New York from Miami, the pilot directed that an African-American woman be removed from the flight when she complained to the gate agent about having her seating assignment changed without her consent;
  • An African-American woman and her infant child were removed from a flight from Atlanta to New York City when the woman (incidentally a Harvard Law School student) asked that her stroller be retrieved from checked baggage before she would disembark.”

The NAACP believes these incidents represent only the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to what the organisation called “American Airlines’ documented mistreatment of African American customers.”

In response, American Airlines emphasised that its role as an international airline is to connect all people regardless of race, gender, and religion.

“As we work through this in concert with the NAACP, please keep doing the great and noble work you always do: treat our customers and each other with respect; connect diverse groups of people with each other and allow them to see the world; make the world a smaller and more open place; and do it professionally and safely,” Parker said.

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