FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The NAACP is warning African-Americans that if they fly on American Airlines they could be subject to discrimination or even unsafe conditions.
American said Wednesday that it was disappointed by the announcement and will invite the civil rights group to meet and talk about the airline.
The NAACP said that for several months it has watched a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers. Among them was activist Tamika Mallory’s claim last week that she was a victim of racial bias when a pilot ordered her off a flight after a dispute with another airline employee over her seat.
The NAACP said that and other recent incidents involving African-Americans “suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines.”
In a statement, American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said, “We are disappointed to hear about this travel advisory as our team members – a diverse community of gate agents, pilots, and flight attendants – are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds. Every day American is committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us.”
Gibson said American will invite NAACP representatives to meet at the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, for “a meaningful dialogue” about the airline.
The NAACP highlighted four recent incidents in which African-American passengers said they were treated in a discriminatory way. The one that attracted the most media attention involved Mallory, an organizer of the Women’s March on Washington in January.
Mallory had changed her seat at an airport kiosk, only to be told at the gate that the seat had been assigned to another customer. Mallory said she was treated disrespectfully by the gate agent — another African-American woman — and was outraged when a white male pilot asked if she could control herself while on the flight.
After being told she was being kicked off the plane, Mallory called the pilot a racist in a profanity-laced exchange. She took a later flight home to New York on American, then held a press conference two days later and threatened to take legal action against the airline.
American is the world’s largest airline. The NAACP describes itself as the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization.