NAACP issues travel advisory on American Airlines

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COLUMBIA - The NAACP has issued a national travel advisory for American Airlines. The organization encouraged people, especially African American "to exercise caution, in that booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions."

The NAACP cites what it calls recent discriminatory act by American Airlines. The organization said the company has a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias.

Traci Wilson-Kleekamp of Race Matters, Friends said, "As a black woman traveling I've had a lot of really uncomfortable experiences from people not wanting to serve me at the airport to people not wanting to sit by me. These instances are not made up." 

The advisory described several incidents:

  • 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.

Wilson-Kleekamp said the advisory sends a powerful message.

"I think black people and other people of color, disabled people, people who are heavy they experience these kind of discriminatory practices on the airplane, that's not new. What is new is for an organization to say, you know, we are not going to spend our money with you if you subscribe to these white supremacy practices." 

American Airlines responded in a statement.

"We were disappointed to learn of a travel advisory issued by the NAACP regarding American Airlines. 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. We have reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns."

NAACP President Derrick Johnson said, “All travelers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm.”