NAACP warns African-American passengers about traveling with American Airlines

NEW YORK  -- The NAACP has warned African-American travelers to be careful when flying with American Airlines.

The group issued an advisory late Tuesday, saying it has noticed "a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines."

The NAACP released the following statement:

“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 confrontations, we have today taken the action of issuing 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. This travel advisory is in effect beginning today, October 24, 2017, until further notice."

It said the incidents "suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias" and advised travelers to exercise caution.

"Booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them [to] disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions," the advisory said.

American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said the company was "disappointed" to hear about the advisory and is "committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone."

"Our team members -- a diverse community of gate agents, pilots, and flight attendants -- are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds," she said.

In response to NAACP President Derrick Johnson's call for an audience with the airline's leadership, Gilson said representatives from the organization would be invited to the company's headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.

"We are committed to having a meaningful dialogue about our airline and are ready to both listen and engage," she said.

The organization described four examples in particular:

  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 didn't provide the name of the woman or say when the events it described are alleged to have taken place. American Airlines didn't comment on the specific allegations.

Johnson said the NAACP's "growing list of incidents ... involves behavior that cannot be dismissed as normal or random."

In August, the organization issued a travel advisory for Missouri, citing several discriminatory incidents in the state as reasons for individual visitors to travel with "extreme caution."

It said at the time that the Missouri advisory was the first ever issued by the organization, at the state or national level.