From the assumption that Black people cannot afford to fly first-class, to getting profiled for additional airport security screening, there’s mounting evidence that #FlyingWhileBlack is the new driving while Black.
A series of high-profile cases of disrespect and mistreatment of Black airline passengers demands a response.
Accordingly, the NAACP issued a travel advisory on Tuesday warning African Americans about traveling specifically on American Airlines flights.
A statement from the NAACP said the organization has been monitoring “a pattern of disturbing incidents” involving Black passengers on American Airlines. The travel advisory, which continues until further notice, urges African Americans to “exercise caution” when booking and boarding flights with the airlines. They could be subjected to “disrespect, discrimination or unsafe conditions.”
The civil rights group highlighted four cases, among a long list, that it said points to a corporate culture that condone “racial insensitivity.” In one of the incidents cited, American Airlines moved a Black woman to the back of her flight even though she purchased a first-class ticket, while allowing her White travel companion to remain seated in first-class.
“The growing list of incidents suggesting racial bias reflects an unacceptable corporate culture and involves behavior that cannot be dismissed as normal or random,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP.
Imani Cezanne, a poet and Black Lives Matter supporter, shared her American Airlines story on Twitter. She was seated on a flight from Charlotte to Atlanta in March 2016. Before takeoff, she witnessed a flight attendant telling passengers seated at the exit to sit somewhere else. When Cezanne inquired, the flight attendant told her that the passengers didn’t speak English. Here’s what happened next:
CNN reported that an American Airlines spokesperson said the company is “disappointed” by the advisory, adding that the airlines is proud of its diverse community and is “committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone.”
The statement also said the airlines is ready for “a meaningful dialogue.”