The NAACP Issued A Warning For Black People Traveling On American Airlines, Following Alleged Incidents Of Racial Discrimination
Discriminatory practices while traveling are well-documented, whether from fellow passengers or airline employees — even though they're against the law. Now, the NAACP has issued a travel advisory for Black people flying with American Airlines. The warning, released Tuesday, Oct. 24, comes in the wake of "recent incidents [involving] troublesome conduct," per an NAACP press release. According to the civil rights organization, the way American Airlines employees have behaved "suggest[s] a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias."
"The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines," the organization said. "In light of these confrontations, we have today taken the action of issuing national advisory alerting travelers —especially African Americans — to exercise caution, in that booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions."
According to American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson, the company was disappointed to hear about the travel advisory because American's team members "are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds."
"Every day American is committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us," she tells Bustle via email. She says the airline will invite NAACP representatives to meet with American Airlines at company headquarters. "We are committed to having a meaningful dialogue about our airline and are ready to both listen and engage," she says. The NAACP did not immediately respond to Bustle's request for comment, and we will update this post when they do.
Just last week, a Black co-chair of the Women's March on Washington alleged she was removed from an American Airlines flight due to "white male aggression." Activist Tamika D. Mallory claims she was targeted by a white pilot because she spoke out about a seating issue. After Mallory shared her story via Twitter, people began to use the hashtag
#Happened2MeOnAA to tell their own stories about facing discriminatory behavior while flying with American Airlines.
Earlier this year, the NAACP made headlines after issuing a travel advisory for the state of Missouri. That advisory was released because of "questionable, race-based incidents," including a study from the state attorney general's office that said Black Missourians were 75 percent more likely to be pulled over by law enforcement officers. This type of advisory brings to mind The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guide first published in the 1930s that told Black people of safe places to stop for a meal or a hotel when traveling cross-country. It may seem excessive to have something similar in place in 2017, but the NAACP lists four troubling incidents reportedly involving American Airlines employees and customers in its travel advisory. Per the release:
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 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;
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
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.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker sent an internal memo to American staff addressing the controversy, which was provided to Bustle by the company.
"We do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind," he wrote in the memo. Parker said the company was disappointed to learn of the travel advisory and is "eager to meet with [the NAACP] to listen to their issues and concerns."
For its part, the NAACP says in its press release that it wants to meet with American Airlines leadership and discuss the concerning incidents they mentioned. But until that happens, the travel advisory will remain in place.
With Thanksgiving a few weeks away and the end of the year quickly approaching, Americans are preparing to travel to spend time with loved ones. Last year, airlines saw 45.2 million passengers from Dec. 16 until Jan. 5. If people heed this travel advisory, it could affect them as they book their holiday destinations in the next two months.