NAACP Cautions Black Passengers About Flying With American Airlines

CHICAGO (CBS) — The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) says it has seen a disturbing pattern of incidents involving how American Airlines treats black passengers.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports the civil rights organization, who has been monitoring the airlines for several months, has issued a national travel advisory for African Americans.

In issuing the advisory, NAACP cited four examples of what it called racial discrimination: Three involved black passengers removed from American flights after disputes with airline employees and, in one case, an African American woman said she was moved from first class to coach while her white traveling companion was allowed to stay in first class.

The president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, released the following statement: “All travelers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm. The growing list of incidents suggesting racial bias reflects an unacceptable corporate culture and involves behavior that cannot be dismissed as normal or random.”

A DePaul professor, and transportation expert, calls the situation a PR headache for American. “The other airlines are watching this because they know the public is watching like a hawk,” Joe Schwieterman said. “And we’re in an era where bad news spreads instantly in a matter of hours.”

The organization urged those who recently experienced a “concerning travel irregularity on American” to report it.

American Airline’s response suggests it understands the seriousness of the NAACP advisory.

“Every day American is committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us,” the airline’s spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said in a statement.

While American says it’s invited the NAACP to its Texas headquarters, some are saying the airline needs to go further.

“Have diversity training, so that employees are properly equipped to deal with diverse audiences and diverse customers,” said Tarrah Cooper, who’s with Cooper Strategies, a Chicago based consulting firm. “It would send that American Airlines is committed to the community, committed to diversity and inclusion and really wants to serve a diverse group of customers.”

In a message to American Airlines employees, CEO Doug Parker said he was disappointed the longtime civil rights organization issued the travel advisory, adding “we will not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

The NAACP is not calling for a boycott of the airlines, rather urging black passengers to use caution.

The travel advisory is in effect until further notice.

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