“Humiliating & degrading” | American Airlines sued for racial discrimination after employees told eight black passengers to leave flight

American Airlines sued for racial discrimination after employees told eight black passengers to leave flight

American Airlines has been hit with a lawsuit from black passengers who allege they were subject to racial discrimination from the airline’s employees.

In a suit filed on Wednesday in a federal court in New York, the three men claim they were told to leave a plane flying from Phoenix to New York on January 5 ahead of its takeoff, solely because of their race.

According to the filing, American Airlines staff reportedly removed a total of eight black men from the airplane, informing them the reason was that a “white male flight attendant” had complained about a passenger’s body odor—despite none of the men being specifically told it was their smell prompting the ejection.

The plaintiffs say they did not know each other before the flight, but the eight men were the only black passengers on board.

Xavier Veal, Emmanuel Jean Joseph, and Alvin Jackson describe the incident as “blatant and egregious race discrimination.”

The lawsuit reports that when the men said they were being singled out based on race, an employee stated “I agree, I agree.”

A recording, verified by the New York Post, appears to capture the alleged admission.

In it, a staffer can be heard saying “I do not disagree with you” in response to a person describing the incident as “discriminatory.”

The filing claims the men were held on the jetway for an hour before being moved to an airport gate, where they were informed they’d be rebooked onto another flight.

However, after it became clear that no other flights were available, the eight men were reportedly then told to get back onto the plane, which they say was a terrible experience.

“They suffered during the entire flight home, and the entire incident was traumatic, upsetting, scary, humiliating, and degrading,” the suit claims.

American Airlines: Staff discrimation claims "do not reflect our core values"

American Airlines has released a statement saying it is looking into the incident but asserts that the alleged behavior goes against the company’s culture.

“We take all claims of discrimination very seriously and want our customers to have a positive experience when they choose to fly with us,” its statement said. “Our teams are currently investigating the matter, as the claims do not reflect our core values or our purpose of caring for people.”

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Susan Huhta, the employment law attorney representing Veal, Joseph, and Jackson, has said "If American Airlines received a complaint about a Black male passenger with offensive body odor but could not verify the complaint, the solution should not have been to eject eight separate Black men from the plane." 

The airline has historically faced allegations of discriminatory behavior by its employees.

In 2017, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – a civil rights organization that tackles racial inequality – advised black travelers in the US to avoid using American Airlines due to the alleged incidents. It later dropped the advisory notice after the airline promised to make changes.

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