American Airlines Faces Racial Discrimination Lawsuit After Removing Black Passengers from Flight

American Airlines Faces Racial Discrimination Lawsuit After Removing Black Passengers from Flight
  • PublishedMay 29, 2024

American Airlines is again embroiled in controversy as it faces a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination. The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Brooklyn, revolves around an incident where eight Black men were temporarily removed from a flight after a White flight attendant complained about the body odor of a passenger.

According to the complaint filed by three of the men involved, they were asked to disembark from a flight from Phoenix to New York City in January, enduring an hour-and-a-half delay. The plaintiffs assert that they were unfairly targeted solely based on their race, as none of them exhibited any offensive odor. They highlight the discriminatory nature of the incident, describing it as “traumatic, upsetting, scary, humiliating, and degrading.”

The men argue that American Airlines violated a Civil War-era law prohibiting race discrimination in contracts. Seeking unspecified damages for pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages for what they deem “malicious, willful… and reckless conduct,” the lawsuit underscores the severity of the airline’s actions.

Susan Huhta, representing the three plaintiffs, emphasized the incident as indicative of a broader pattern of discrimination within American Airlines. This event, she contends, adds to a “disturbing history” of allegations against the airline regarding its treatment of Black passengers.

This recent lawsuit comes on the heels of other incidents that have fueled accusations of racial bias within American Airlines. Last month, reports surfaced of a Black retired judge from Chicago who filed a complaint after being denied access to a first-class bathroom despite holding a first-class ticket.

Additionally, instances involving other Black passengers have raised concerns. One traveler, Tamika Richardson, alleged she was removed from a plane under the guise of harassing an attendant, while another, Ernest Harris, faced suspicion of child trafficking while traveling with his biracial children. American Airlines apologized to Harris and rerouted Richardson to another flight.

The airline’s track record with racial issues prompted the NAACP to caution Black travelers against flying American in 2017, citing a series of racially-charged incidents. Subsequently, American Airlines pledged to update its policies and provide employees with implicit bias training, leading to the withdrawal of the advisory by the civil rights organization.

As this lawsuit unfolds, it not only highlights the challenges Black passengers continue to face but also underscores the need for systemic change within the airline industry to ensure equitable treatment for all travelers.

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