On Tuesday morning, the NAACP issued a travel advisory targeting American Airlines for exhibiting what the civil rights organization describes as a “pattern” of behavior suggesting a “corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias.” The warning will remain in place, NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson stated, until they have a meeting with American Airlines to discuss their grievances.
The advisory says that the group has been monitoring reports of “disturbing incidents” involving African-American passengers that has prompted the organization to warn black passengers in particular to “exercise caution” if choosing to travel with the company.
“The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” reads the advisory. “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 Dallas Morning News notes that the warning comes just a week after a black Women’s March activist got into a dispute with American Airlines staff about a changed seat assignment, one of the four incidents cited by the NAACP as evidence of a “corporate culture of racial insensitivity.” The feminist, Tamika Mallory, alleges that not only was race a factor but sexism played a role too. The NY Daily News provides more details on Mallory’s allegations:
Mallory, a co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, was traveling home to New York when the pilot followed her to scold her over an argument she had with a gate agent.
He then had her summoned from her seat and kicked off the flight, she told the Daily News.
“It definitely was white male aggression. I was singled out, I was disrespected, and he was trying to intimidate me. I was discriminated against,” she said. …
Mallory, who is active in movements for gun control and civil rights, was in Miami for the Revolt Music Conference and had planned to attend the wedding of Rev. Al Sharpton’s daughter Sunday afternoon, which she missed.
Another one of the four incidents involved Rane Baldwin, who says that she was moved to coach from first class while her white traveling companion was allowed to stay. Her traveling companion has confirmed the story and accused the flight attendants of ignoring Baldwin’s questions but answering her own. The Charlotte Observer notes that the airline looked into her claims and concluded that “race was not a factor”; instead, it was a simple matter of whose name was listed first:
… American Airlines told the Charlotte Observer Thursday that race was not a factor. Instead, it was a simple matter of a ticket agent mistakenly upgrading seats without making sure enough space was available in first class. Only one seat was available and Novack got it because her ticket had been upgraded first. Had Baldwin’s ticket been entered into the system first, she would have gotten the seat, airline officials said.
Anther incident involved a former president of the North Carolina NAACP, Rev. William Barber, who says he was kicked off an American Airlines flight after complaining about what he alleges was harassment by two white passengers.
A fourth incident involved Briana Williams, who got into a dispute with airline staff when they would not retrieve her checked stroller after a flight was grounded. The airline called security after she refused to leave the grounded plane.