3 Black passengers sue American Airlines, say they were kicked off flight

FILE - American Airlines passenger jets prepare for departure, Wednesday, July 21, 2021, near a terminal at Boston Logan International Airport, in Boston. Steven Senne / The Associated Press

American Airlines is being sued by three Black passengers who say they were ordered off a flight and allege it was because of racial discrimination.

The passengers’ lawyers filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York on Wednesday, reports ABC News, over an incident that took place in January.

In the filing, the men said airline employees told them they were being removed due to a complaint of body odour. They said they noticed an additional five Black men were also asked to leave the flight, which was set to take off in Phoenix, Ariz., and bound for New York.

The lawsuit claims that the three men – Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph and Xavier Veal – had never met before the flight and were not seated together.

However, the lawsuit says that an American Airlines employee approached each of them individually and told them they had to leave the flight, without explanation.

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“As the plaintiffs began to comply with the directive to deplane, they noticed that the only passengers who were being ordered off the plane were Black men, and it appeared that every Black man on the flight was being removed,” the suit reads, reports The Guardian

Representatives then told the men a complaint about body odour had prompted their removal, according to the suit. None of the plaintiffs were told that they personally had body odour, “and in fact none of the Plaintiffs had offensive body odour,” it says.

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The lawsuit also says that at least one airline staff agreed with the plaintiffs when they suggested that it seemed as though they had been singled out based on the colour of their skin.

“What happened to us was wrong. Imagine a flight attendant ordering every white person off a plane because of a complaint about one white person. That would never happen. But that is what happened to us,” the three men said.

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“There is no explanation other than the color of our skin. American Airlines singled us out for being Black, embarrassed us, and humiliated us. Clearly, this was discrimination,” they added.

After about an hour, when the airline realized there were no other available flights that evening, the men were allowed back on the plane, according to CNN.

“Plaintiffs then had to reboard the plane and endure the stares of the largely white passengers who viewed them as the cause of the substantial delay. They suffered during the entire flight home, and the entire incident was traumatic, upsetting, scary, humiliating, and degrading,” the lawsuit reads.

In a statement to media, American said it is investigating the matter “as the claims do not reflect our core values or our purpose of caring for people.”

“We take all claims of discrimination very seriously and want our customers to have a positive experience when they choose to fly with us,” the statement continued.

In 2017, the NAACP warned Black travelers about flying on American, claiming that several African American passengers had experienced discrimination by the airline. American promised changes, and the civil-rights group later lifted the advisory.

with a file from The Associated Press

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