The U.S.’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP, is warning black flyers to exercise caution when flying American Airlines after a string of “disturbing incidents.”
The NAACP described “a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines.”
The airline’s CEO said Wednesday that he was disappointed by the announcement and that the company wanted to discuss the matter with the civil rights group.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson told The Associated Press that group officials were not calling for a boycott of American Airlines, but after looking at the number of incidents, they felt as though they needed to issue a warning to African-Americans.
In its statement, the group noted four recent incidents that “suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines.”
In one, the statement said, “an African-American man was required to relinquish his purchased seats aboard a flight from Washington, D.C., to Raleigh-Durham [N.C.], merely because he responded to disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers.” The man in question is the head of the North Carolina NAACP, the Reverend William Barber.
In another, a black woman with first-class tickets was switched to coach while her white companion remained in first class. Two other incidents involved black women removed from flights after making routine complaints or requests, including asking for “her stroller to be retrieved from checked baggage before she would disembark.”
“Historically, the NAACP has issued travel advisories when conditions on the ground pose a substantial risk of harm to black Americans, and we are concerned today that the examples cited herein may represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to American Airlines’ documented mistreatment of African-American customers,” the statement said.
In a memo to employees, CEO Doug Parker said American endorsed the NAACP’s mission statement against racial discrimination.
“We do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind,’’ Parker wrote. “We have reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns.’’