An American Airlines plane (Courtesy of Skift)
An American Airlines plane (Courtesy of Skift)

After an incident with activist Tamika Mallory, the NAACP issued a national travel advisory telling African-Americans to avoid patronizing American Airlines.

In mid-October, Mallory, nationally known for organizing the Women’s March on Washington, accused the airline of discrimination over a seating dispute which resulted in her being removed from the plane on the pilot’s orders.

A week later on Tuesday, Oct. 24, the NAACP put forth the advisory, calling for a meeting with American Airlines to address the troublesome issues.

“The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson. “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.”

The newly minted president of one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations said the travel advisory takes effect until further notice.

“The series of recent incidents involve troublesome conduct by American Airlines and they suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines,” he said.

The airline responded to the backlash with a statement on the case of Mallory, who vehemently alleges discrimination.

“Our team does not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” said a representative for the airline, the Huffington Post reported. “We take these allegations seriously, and we are in the process of reaching out to our colleagues in Miami, as well as Ms. Mallory, to obtain additional information on what transpired during the boarding process.”

In a statement, the NAACP describes a few of the incidents, including Mallory’s, that led to the hard stance against American Airlines.

In one case, an African-American man aboard a flight from D.C. to Raleigh-Durham had to relinquish his purchased seats merely because he responded to disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers; in another, 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 according to the organization.

“The NAACP deplores such alarming behavior on the part of airline personnel, and we are aware of these incidents only because the passengers involved knew their rights, knew to speak up and exercised the courage to do so promptly,” Johnson said. “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.

“All travelers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm,” he said. “The growing list of incidents suggesting racial bias reflects an unacceptable corporate culture and involves behavior that cannot be dismissed as normal or random. We expect an audience with the leadership of American Airlines to air these grievances and to spur corrective action. Until these and other concerns are addressed, this national travel advisory will stand.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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