June 23, 2024

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Black men sue American Airlines for 'racial discrimination'

Black men sue American Airlines for 'racial discrimination'

Video explanation, “There was a complaint of body odor” – American Airlines lawsuit

  • author, Max Matza
  • Role, BBC News

Three black men have filed a lawsuit against American Airlines, alleging that the airline briefly removed them from a flight after a complaint about body odor.

The men, who did not sit together and did not know each other, say each black man was taken from the Jan. 5 flight from Phoenix, Arizona, to New York.

“American Airlines singled us out for being black, embarrassed and humiliated us,” the men said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

The Texas-based airline said it was investigating the matter because the allegations were not consistent with its values.

Comment on the photo, From left: Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean-Joseph and Xavier Vail

According to the federal lawsuit filed by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, the men had already taken their seats and were preparing to leave Phoenix when a flight attendant approached each of them and asked them to exit the plane.

Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean-Joseph, and Xavier Vail claim that as they were leaving, they realized that “every black man on the plane had been turned away.”

Both men had flown in from Los Angeles earlier that day, without any problems.

At the flight gate, an airline agent told the three men, along with five others, that they were “deported because a white flight attendant complained about the body odor of an unknown passenger.”

“There is no explanation other than the color of our skin,” the men said in a statement on Wednesday, adding: “This was clearly racial discrimination.”

American Airlines employees attempted to rebook the men on other flights, but there were no other services to New York that night. The group was at that point allowed to re-occupy their seats on their original flight.

“We take all allegations of discrimination seriously and want our customers to have a positive experience when they choose to fly with us,” American Airlines said in a statement.

“Our teams are currently investigating the matter, as the claims do not reflect our core values ​​or our goal of caring for people,” he added.

While the men were waiting outside the plane, the pilot made an announcement telling passengers there was a delay due to a “body odor” issue, the suit adds. Prosecutors say the claim about the smell was false.

“Throughout the flight — from the moment they reboarded the plane, in every interaction with the white flight attendant, until landing — Plaintiffs experienced profound feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, anger, and distress,” the lawsuit states.

“Returning to their seats after an undue delay, and passing through the mostly white passengers, many of whom looked at them with unjustified anger and suspicion, compounded their humiliation.”

The lawsuit says the airline should be forced to pay unspecified damages for the “trauma” the men suffered.

Joseph, one of the men who filed the lawsuit, told the BBC that the “alienating” experience reminded him of civil rights hero Rosa Parks who was forced to move to the back of an Alabama bus in 1955 due to state-sanctioned segregation.

“It's a weird, crazy story that in 2024 we're still going through things like this,” Joseph said.

He added that the lawsuit is necessary to ensure that American Airlines does not end up with a “slap on the wrist.”

In 2017, the NAACP, a civil rights group, issued a travel advisory asking black Americans to avoid American Airlines due to discrimination.

They lifted the warning the following year after the carrier announced it had made changes to its operations.

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