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Black passengers sue American Airlines for racial discrimination

Racial discrimination lawsuit filed against American Airlines by African American passengers
American Airlines
Photo credit: / Angel DiBilio

Three African American men have filed a lawsuit against American Airlines, claiming racial discrimination after they, along with other Black passengers, were removed from a flight due to an alleged complaint about ‘offensive body odor.’ This incident raises serious concerns about racial profiling and discrimination in air travel, echoing past complaints against the airline.

Details of the discrimination incident

Emmanuel Jean Joseph, Alvin Jackson, and Xavier Veal were on a connecting flight from Los Angeles when they were removed from the plane. According to the plaintiffs, the ‘body odor’ allegation was a pretext for discrimination, as they were among eight Black passengers ejected from the flight. The men were held for an hour before being rebooked on another flight to New York, only to be placed back on the same plane due to lack of alternative flights, leading to an uncomfortable situation.

The lawsuit and American Airlines’ response

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, highlights that the removed passengers were the only Black individuals on the flight and were not acquainted with each other. Sue Huhta, the attorney for the plaintiffs, has criticized American Airlines for not providing a clear explanation for the removal. The airline has been previously accused of racial discrimination, and the NAACP issued a travel advisory in 2017 warning Black passengers about potential discriminatory practices.

While American Airlines has yet to provide specific answers regarding the incident, they have issued a statement asserting their commitment to non-discrimination and the care of their customers. However, the timing of their response, coinciding with the lawsuit, suggests a reactive rather than proactive approach to addressing such serious allegations.

Implications for African American travelers

The incident is a stark reminder of the challenges that African Americans may face while engaging in everyday activities such as flying. It adds to the growing list of concerns for Black individuals seeking to travel without encountering racial bias or discrimination.

As this case unfolds, it will be closely watched by the African American community and advocates for civil rights, who demand fair treatment and equality in all aspects of public life, including air travel.

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