3 black men files racial discrimination lawsuit against American Airlines

Three Black men have filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against American Airlines, alleging they were briefly removed from a flight due to a complaint about body odor. The men, who did not know each other and were seated separately, claim every Black man on the January 5th flight from Phoenix, Arizona, to New York was removed.

“American Airlines singled us out for being Black, embarrassed us, and humiliated us,” the men stated on Wednesday.

American Airlines, based in Texas, is investigating the allegations, which it says do not reflect its values.

The federal lawsuit, filed by consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, details that the men were already seated and ready to depart Phoenix when a flight attendant asked each of them to exit the plane. Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph, and Xavier Veal claim they realized all the Black men on the flight were being removed as they were leaving.

Earlier that day, each of the men had flown from Los Angeles without incident. At the flight gate, an airline agent informed them and five other Black men that they were removed because a white male flight attendant had complained about an unidentified passenger’s body odor.

“There is no explanation other than the color of our skin,” the men said in a statement, calling the incident “clearly racial discrimination.”

American Airlines employees attempted to re-book the men on other flights, but no other flights to New York were available that night. Eventually, they were allowed to reboard their original flight.

In a statement, American Airlines emphasized their commitment to addressing discrimination claims seriously and ensuring a positive customer experience. “Our teams are currently investigating the matter, as the claims do not reflect our core values or our purpose of caring for people.”

The lawsuit also notes that while the men waited outside the plane, the pilot announced a delay due to an issue with “body odor.” The plaintiffs assert this claim was false and that they experienced significant embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, anger, and distress throughout the flight.

“Returning to their seats after the unwarranted delay, navigating past predominantly white passengers, many of whom eyed them with anger and suspicion, compounded their humiliation,” the lawsuit states. It demands unspecified damages for the “trauma” the men endured.

Mr. Joseph, one of the plaintiffs, likened the experience to Civil Rights hero Rosa Parks being forced to the back of an Alabama bus in 1955, highlighting that such racial discrimination still occurs in 2024. He emphasized the lawsuit’s necessity to ensure American Airlines faces more than a “slap on the wrist.”

In 2017, the NAACP issued a travel advisory urging Black Americans to avoid American Airlines due to discrimination. This advisory was lifted the following year after the airline made operational changes.

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