NAACP Issues Travel Advisory, Warning to Black Passengers About American Airlines

Organization cites four incidents in particular as examples of "possible racial bias" from airline

NAACP cites four incidents in particular as examples of "possible racial bias" from American Airlines. Credit: John Gress/Getty

The NAACP issued a travel advisory late Tuesday regarding American Airlines, warning black passengers in particular not to fly with American, the world's largest airline.

"The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines," the statement read in part. "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 [to] disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions."

The statement added that the advisory was effective starting Tuesday, October 24th, and would be in place until "further notice."

Newly instated NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement that "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 release mentioned four examples of what the NAACP determined to be "possible racial bias," though the examples don't detail the names of the passengers involved or when the alleged incidents took place.

In one cited incident, a black man was required to forfeit his seat aboard a flight from Washington, D.C. to Raleigh-Durham because he "responded to disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers."

In another, a black woman who was traveling first-class with a white companion was reassigned a seat to the coach section of the plane even though her friend was allowed to stay in first-class.

A third incident allegedly involved a black woman who was removed from a flight to New York from Miami after she complained to the gate agent about having her seat changed without her knowledge.

The fourth incident mentioned a black woman and her baby traveling from Atlanta to New York City; when the woman asked if her stroller could be retrieved from checked baggage before she disembarked, she was summarily removed from the flight.

On Wednesday, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker wrote in a memo to his employees that he was "disappointed" in the NAACP's statement, and that the airline's mission similarly frowned upon "discrimination of any kind."

"We have reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns," the memo read in part.

In August, the NAACP issued its first-ever travel advisory against the state of Missouri following the state's passage of a law that Missouri's NAACP conference says allows for legal discrimination. The advisory at the time warned those looking to travel to the state to do so with "extreme caution."

"Race, gender and color based crimes have a long history in Missouri," the advisory said.