"In light of these confrontations, 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 disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions," reads the advisory.
The civil rights organization said that recent incidents reported on American-Airlines flights suggest that the airline has a "corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias."
In a statement, American Airlines spokesperson Shannon Gilson said the company plans to invite NAACP representatives for a meeting at AA headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, The Root reports. "We are committed to having a meaningful dialogue about our airline and are ready to both listen and engage," she said.
This morning, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker issued a public staff memo addressing the issue.
"We were disappointed to learn of a travel advisory issued by the NAACP regarding American Airlines," reads the memo. It continues:
The mission statement of the NAACP states that it 'seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination.' That’s a mission that the people of American Airlines endorse and facilitate every day – we do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind.
Parker added that the company has "reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns."
Among the NAACP's concerns were a slew of recent incidents of "troublesome conduct" by American Airlines, they wrote in the advisory. They included these four examples:
- An African-American man was required to relinquish his purchased seats aboard a flight from Washington, D.C. to Raleigh-Durham, merely because he responded to disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers;
- Despite having previously booked first-class tickets for herself and a traveling companion, an African-American woman’s seating assignment was switched to the coach section at the ticket counter, while her white companion remained assigned to a first-class seat;
- On a flight bound for New York from Miami, the pilot directed that an African-American woman be removed from the flight when she complained to the gate agent about having her seating assignment changed without her consent; and
- An African-American woman and her infant child were removed from a flight from Atlanta to New York City when the woman (incidentally a Harvard Law School student) asked that her stroller be retrieved from checked baggage before she would disembark.
The NAACP concluded:
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.
Over the past 24-hours, people have also taken to Twitter to share their own examples of racist behavior towards black passengers on American Airlines flights, many using the hashtag Happened2MeOnAA.
As more than one person pointed out, the problem doesn't begin and end on board American Airlines flights:
She tweeted this follow-up today:
Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, said the travel advisory will stand "until these and other concerns are addressed."