NAACP Issues Travel Advisory for American Airlines

On Tuesday, October 24, the historic NAACP issued a travel advisory warning African-Americans to protect their safety and well-being when traveling with American Airlines.

In its statement, the nation’s oldest and most expansive social justice advocacy organization stated, “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 concerns, the advisory cautioned African-Americans that booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them to disrespectful, discriminatory, or unsafe conditions. The travel advisory became effective on October 24, and is scheduled to continue until further notice. According to the NAACP, recent incidents of troublesome conduct by American Airlines suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias.

The following are some of the incidents that have raised concern regarding American Airlines:

  • 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.
  • An African-American woman and her infant child were removed from a flight from Atlanta to New York City when the woman (a Harvard Law School student) asked that her stroller be retrieved from checked baggage before she would disembark.

These incidents are alarming and according to the NAACP, the only reason they became public is because the passengers involved knew their rights, knew to speak up, and did so promptly.

Historically, the NAACP has issued travel advisories when conditions pose a substantial risk of harm to black Americans. Organization officials noted, “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.”

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

Johnson further stressed, “We expect an audience with the leadership of American Airlines to air these grievances and to spur corrective action.” He concluded, “Until these and other concerns are addressed, this national travel advisory will stand.”

The civil rights organization has asked anyone who recently experienced a concerning travel experience with American Airlines or another provider and would like to report it, to do so here http://action.naacp.org/page/s/national-travel-advisory-for-american-airlines.  

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