NAACP Issues National Travel Advisory for American Airlines

October 26, 2017

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has released a travel advisory warning African-Americans about their safety and wellbeing when traveling on American Airlines flights.

In a statement released Oct. 24, the nation’s oldest and largest social justice advocacy organization stated that it has been monitoring “a pattern of disturbing incidents” involving troublesome conduct by American Airlines that suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of the airline.

The statement went on to alert travelers, especially African Americans, “… to exercise caution, in that booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”

The civil rights group highlighted four alleged incidents that appeared to target African-American passengers and demonstrated discrimination on AA flights. These cases included:

  1. An African-American man was required to relinquish his purchased seats aboard a flight from Washington, D.C., to Raleigh-Durham, because he responded to what the NAACP said were “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, the NAACP said 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 NAACP said 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 NAACP said the woman (a Harvard Law School student) asked that her stroller be retrieved from checked baggage before she would disembark.

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

He continued, “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.”

In response, Doug Parker, American Airlines chairman and CEO, shared a letter with the airline’s 120,000 employees on Oct. 25. Parker said he was “disappointed to learn of a travel advisory issued by the NAACP regarding American Airlines.”

“The mission statement of the NAACP states that it ‘seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination,’” he added. “That’s a mission that the people of American Airlines endorse and facilitate every day – we do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

Parker went on to say that AA has reached out to the NAACP and hopes to work with the civil rights organization to resolve the issue.

On Facebook, a social networking platform that is no stranger to heated controversy, the debate continued on AA’s fan page, with commenters landing squarely on both sides of the issue – either defending AA or supporting the NAACP action.

This is the second travel advisory the NAACP has issued since last summer, when the organization issued an advisory for the entire state of Missouri after the state passed a law affecting employee protections against workplace discrimination.

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