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NAACP Warns Black Passengers Against Traveling with American Airlines

The NAACP has issued a travel advisory against American Airlines following a series of alleged discriminatory incidents involving African-American passengers.

The nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization on Tuesday, Oct. 24, warned travelers about their “safety and well-being” when flying with the Fort Worth-based airline, citing at least four examples of what it described as “possible racial bias.”

“In light of these confrontations, we’ve 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 advisory read.

The warning comes just over a week after New York activist and Women’s March co-chair Tamika Mallory was removed from an American Airlines flight over a dustup she had with gate agent after her seat assignment was changed.

“It definitely was white male aggression,” Mallory told the New York Daily News. “I was singled out [by the pilot], I was disrespected and he was trying to intimidate me. I was discriminated against.”

Another one of the listed incidents involved North Carolina NAAACP leader Rev. William Barber, who was forced to give up his seat on a Raleigh-bound flight after a confrontation with two “unruly” white passengers. Then, there was an incident that took place in May where a Black woman was switched to coach, despite her purchase of first-class seating. Her white traveling companion was allowed to remain in first-class, however.

“It’s actually amazing how much racism I’ve experienced on @AmericanAir this morning for sitting with a friend,” Janet Novak, the white travel partner, said on Twitter. “Like, genuinely amazing.”

In the last incident, a Black woman and her infant daughter were booted from an AA flight after she asked flight staff to retrieve a stroller she had checked as baggage. They refused, after which the woman refused to disembark without her child’s stroller. She was removed by police.

In a statement, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said he was “disappointed” to hear of the NAACP’s travel warning, but added that the airline’s mission is aligned with that of the civil rights organization.

“… We do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Parker said. “We have reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns”

Historically, the NAACP said it issues travel advisories when “conditions on the ground pose a substantial risk of harm to Black Americans.” Just this summer, the organization it issued a travel advisory for the state of Missouri after Gov. Eric Greitens signed a bill diminishing civil rights protections for employees.

Newly elected president and CEO, Derrick Johnson, said such incidents of racial bias can’t be written off “as normal or random.”

“We expect an audience with the leadership of American Airlines to air these grievances and to spur corrective action,” Johnson said in a statement. “Until these and other concerns are addressed, this national travel advisory will stand.”

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

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