Following “a pattern of disturbing incidents,” The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced a travel advisory warning travellers, African-Americans in particular, about flying with American Airlines
The NAACP, the nation’s original and largest social justice advocacy organization, has released the following statement today announcing a travel advisory warning African Americans about their safety and well being when patronizing American Airlines or travelling on American Airlines flights:
“The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines. 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. This travel advisory is in effect beginning today, October 24, 2017, until further notice.
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 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.
The NAACP deplores such alarming behaviour on the part of airline personnel, and we are aware of these incidents only because the passengers involved knew their rights, knew to speak up and exercised the courage to do so promptly. Historically, the NAACP has issued travel advisories when conditions on the ground pose a substantial risk of harm to black Americans, and 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.”
“All travellers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm,” stated Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP. “The growing list of incidents suggesting racial bias reflects an unacceptable corporate culture and involves behaviour that cannot be dismissed as normal or random. We expect an audience with the leadership of American Airlines to air these grievances and to spur corrective action. Until these and other concerns are addressed, this national travel advisory will stand,”
It’s not the first time the NAACP has issued a travel advisory. In August, the organization’s Missouri chapter warned people of colour, members of the LGBT community, women and those with disabilities to “travel with extreme caution” throughout the entire state because “they may not be safe,” as was reported
American Airlines CEO, Doug Parker, responded on Wednesday in a memo to employees in which he said he expressed willingness to meet with members of the NAACP.
“We do not and we will not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Parker wrote in the memo, NBC News reported. “We have reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns.”
American Airlines Public Affairs Communications Director Shannon Gilson told Splinter News that they were “disappointed” with 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.”
The incidents that sparked the travel advisory were “reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” the organization said. “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.”
There were at least four specific instances that raised these concerns, including one in which an African-American man had to forfeit his seats after he had “responded to disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers,” the group said.
In another incident, an African-American woman claimed that she had been downgraded out of first class “to the coach section at the ticket counter, while her white companion remained assigned to a first-class seat.”
“All travellers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm,” said NAACP CEO and President Derrick Johnson.