NAACP issues travel advisory alleging discrimination by American Airlines
Citing a pattern of “disturbing incidents” reported by African American passengers,” the NAACP is warning African Americans that flying on American Airlines could subject them to “disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”
The airline’s chief executive said Wednesday that he was disappointed by the advisory and called for a meeting with leaders of the civil rights group.
“We do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” American CEO Doug Parker said in a letter to his employees. No meeting has yet been scheduled, an airline spokesman said.
The travel advisory is the latest of several actions by the civil rights organization to bring attention to what the group calls unsafe conditions for African Americans.
The NAACP issued the American Airlines advisory, citing four incidents in which African American passengers were either removed from a flight or forced to give up a first-class seat on the carrier’s planes.
“All travelers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear or threat, violence or harm,” NAACP Chief Executive Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “The growing list of incidents suggesting racial bias reflects an unacceptable corporate culture and involves behavior that cannot be dismissed as normal or random.”
The move comes only two weeks after the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Muslim Advocates, an advocacy and education group, called on eight of the nation’s largest airlines to require anti-bias training for all customer service employees.
The request for training came in response to a September incident in which a Muslim woman, Anila Daulatzai, told the crew on a Southwest Airlines flight that she was allergic to two dogs in the cabin, but refused to leave. She was forcibly removed by police in an incident that was recorded on cellphone video.
Daulatzai, a Baltimore professor, was taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and resisting arrest, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.
In August, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for the state of Missouri after legislators in the state adopted a bill that made it more difficult for employees to prove that their protected class, such as a race or gender, directly led to unlawful discrimination.
“Individuals traveling in the state are advised to travel with extreme CAUTION,” the advisory warned. “Race-, gender- and color-based crimes have a long history in Missouri.”
As for the American Airlines advisory, the NAACP cited several incidents, including one in which an African American woman who booked first-class tickets for herself and a white companion was switched to a coach seat while her white companion remained in first class.
In another incident cited by the NAACP, an African American man was removed from a plane in Washington, D.C., when he responded to “disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers.”
The move against American Airlines comes as the NAACP tries to reposition itself nationally after some members accused it of being eclipsed by the ACLU and Black Lives Matter.
In May, the group’s board suddenly removed its president, Cornell Brooks, saying that “changing times require us to be vigilant and agile,” and said its leaders would embark on a national listening tour to solicit ideas from members for its new direction. The tour stops in Los Angeles on Thursday.
In his letter to the Fort Worth carrier’s 120,000 employees, Parker said American endorses the NAACP’s mission statement against racial discrimination.
“We do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Parker wrote. “We have reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns.”
American Airlines issued a separate statement saying that it has a diverse group of employees and serves customers of all backgrounds.
Staff writer Jaweed Kaleem contributed to this article.
For more news about airlines, travel and tourism, follow Hugo Martin on Twitter: @hugomartin
2 p.m.: This article was updated with background on the NAACP and a statement by an American Airlines spokesman that no meeting had been scheduled between leaders of the civil rights organization and the airline.
12:55 p.m.: This article was updated throughout and supplemented with Times reporting.
This article was originally published at 8:05 a.m.
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