NAACP Cautions Black Travelers Against Flying on American Airlines


The NAACP is urging black people to avoid using American Airlines following what the organization calls a “a pattern of disturbing incidents” reported by black passengers.

In a press release issued late Tuesday, the NAACP cited a number of incidents which prompted them to recommend “caution” when considering booking and boarding flights with American Airlines. Traveling with the airline, the organization warned, could result in “disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.” The advisory comes just over a week after the airline was accused of discrimination by activist Tamika Mallory, who was removed from a flight following a dispute over her seat.

“All travelers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson explained. “The growing list of incidents suggesting racial bias reflects an unacceptable corporate culture and involves behavior that cannot be dismissed as normal or random.”

In the warning, the NAACP listed four incidents of alleged bias which contributed to the decision to speak out against American Airlines:

1) 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;
2) Despite having previously booked first-class tickets for herself and a traveling 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;
3) 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; and
4) 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.

When reached for comment by Splinter, American Airlines Public Affairs Communications Director Shannon Gilson said the company was “disappointed” to learn of the NAACP’s actions.

“Our team members – a diverse community of gate agents, pilots, and flight attendants – are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds,” Gilson said. “Every day American is committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us.”

According to Gilson, American Airlines plans to invite representatives from the NAACP to meet at the company’s Texas headquarters.

“We are committed to having a meaningful dialogue about our airline and are ready to both listen and engage,” she explained.

The airline later confirmed this in a memo sent to staff.

However, the NAACP appears to be preparing for an extended stance against American Airlines.

“We are concerned today that the examples cited herein may represent only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to American Airlines’ documented mistreatment of African American customers,” the organization said in their press release.

They plan to maintain the warning “until further notice.”

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