NAACP ISSUES NATIONAL TRAVEL ADVISORY ALLEGING RACIAL BIAS BY AMERICAN AIRLINES

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By Miriam Raftery 

October 25, 2017 (San Diego) – The NAACP, the nation’s original and largest social justice advocacy organization, has issued a travel advisory alleging racial discrimination by American Airlines and warning African-American travelers about risks to their safety and well-being aboard American flights.

A press release issued by the NAACP states that after several months of monitoring what it calls “a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers” the NAACP has issued the 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.”

American Airlines Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker said in a memo to staff that the company was "disappointed" to hear about the NAACP warning, CNN reports.

He said the airline has reached out to the NAACP to set up a meeting, as NAACP President Derrick Johnson had called for with the airline’s leadership.

"We fly over borders, walls and stereotypes to connect people from different races, religions, nationalities, economic backgrounds and sexual orientations," Parker wrote in the memo, which the company released to reporters. "We do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind."

The NAACP cites a series of recent incidents involving troublesome conduct by American Airlines that the civil rights group says collectively “suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines.” Here are four examples, according to the NAACP:

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.

The NAACP denounced the actions, which it learned of only because of passengers who “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.  The organization’s press release voices concern that the cases cited here could be only the “tip of the iceberg” of mistreating African-American customers.

Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, states, “All travelers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm,” adding,The growing list of incidents suggesting racial bias reflects an unacceptable corporate culture and involves behavior 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,” he concludes, adding, “Until these and other concerns are addressed, this national travel advisory will stand.”