American Airline staffers suspended after booting eight Black men off plane

American Airlines has placed several employees on leave for discriminating against a group of black flyers during a January flight.

“I am incredibly disappointed by what happened on that flight and the breakdown of our procedures,” American CEO Robert Isom wrote in a note to staff this week, according to CBS News.

“It contradicts our values. We fell short of our commitments and failed our customers in this incident,” he continued.

He added that the involved employees have been placed on leave pending an investigation.

As previously reported, during a flight last January from Phoenix to New York, eight black men (three of whom would later file suit against the airline) were forced off the flight and told to rebook.

“An employee eventually told them the reason: Someone on the plane had complained about body odor,” according to the Washington Post.

In response to the complaint, a flight attendant evidently decided to remove all the black men from the flight, leaving them very “annoyed and frustrated,” according to the attorney, Michael Kirkpatrick, representing the three who subsequently sued.

Of course, not until they were all removed from the flight did it dawn on them that they were all black, which was one hell of a coincidence.

“It hit them like a ton of bricks,” Kirkpatrick said.

“(O)nce they reached the jet bridge, they saw that several other Black men were also being removed from the plane,” the lawsuit reads, according to CNN. “In fact, it appeared to Plaintiffs that American had ordered all of the Black male passengers on Flight 832 off the plane.”

The suit goes on to note that, despite the complaint about body odor, “none of the Plaintiffs had offensive body odor.”

The suit further notes that at least one American representative agreed with the plaintiffs when they complained that they’d all been singled out precisely because of the color of their skin.

(Video Credit: CBS News)

All the men were eventually allowed to re-board the flight, but their anger still remained — for obvious reasons.

“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,” the suit reads.

“They suffered during the entire flight home, and the entire incident was traumatic, upsetting, scary, humiliating, and degrading,” the complaint/suit continues.

One of the plaintiffs, Emmanuel Jean Joseph, echoed this sentiment in a statement to CBS News.

“I knew that as soon as I got on that plane, a sea of white faces were going to be looking at me and blaming me for their late flight of an hour,” he said.

Xavier Veal, another plaintiff in the case, told CBS News that he believes the incident would have never occurred had he been white.

“We were discriminated against,” he said. “The entire situation was racist.”

This isn’t the airline’s first rodeo.

“In 2017, the NAACP issued a travel advisory urging members not to fly on the airline,” CBS News notes. “The advisory was lifted eight months later after the company agreed to numerous stipulations, including the formation of an advisory council.”

However, the airline disbanded the panel in 2023, after which racial incidents obviously continued.

“Without a swift and decisive response, the NAACP will be forced to reinstate an advisory against the airline,” NAACP president Derrick Johnson said.

In his letter to staff members, Isom mentioned speaking with Johnson after the most recent incident and agreeing to restart the advisory council. The council will “focus on improving the travel experience for black customers” and promote accountability to deliver an “inclusive” travel experience.

“Be assured that we are steadfast in our commitment to working with the NAACP and other civil rights organizations to learn from this incident, listen to and rebuild trust with you, our team members, and our black customers, and to delivering the best possible experience with American,” Isom wrote.

Johnson was pleased.

“The NAACP is pleased to see American Airlines has taken initial steps to forge a path toward a more inclusive experience for all,” Johnson told CBS News. “While it is unfortunately common for black consumers to experience racism and discrimination at the hands of corporations, it is not common to see such swift, and decisive action.”

“It is our hope that this approach will serve as a model for other corporations who may find themselves in similar situations,” he added.

Vivek Saxena

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