Airline CEO: We 'Fell Short' in Booting Black Men From Flight

American Airlines says it has suspended multiple workers after January incident
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2024 12:30 PM CDT
Updated Jun 21, 2024 7:56 AM CDT
3 Black Men Asked to Exit an American Flight Are Suing
An American Airlines jetliner is shown.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
UPDATE Jun 21, 2024 7:56 AM CDT

Multiple workers at American Airlines have been suspended after an incident in which eight Black passengers, none of whom knew each other, say they were booted from a plane over supposed body odor. Three of the men who were kicked off the plane have since sued. "We are holding those involved accountable, including removing team members from service," the airline said in a statement, per the BBC, with CEO Robert Isom admitting AA "fell short." Isom says he was "incredibly disappointed" to learn what had happened on the January flight, and that the incident "contradicts our values," per the AP. Isom adds that the airline will be forming an advisory board to concentrate on the travel experience of Black customers. It's not clear how many employees in total have been suspended or otherwise disciplined.

May 29, 2024 12:30 PM CDT

As passengers waited for their Phoenix-to-New York flight to pull away from the gate, an American Airlines employee allegedly walked through the plane and asked eight men to deplane without explanation. A federal lawsuit filed by three of those men on Wednesday accuses the airline of "blatant race discrimination." They claim the eight men asked to deplane, who did not know each other, realized they were all Black and accounted for all the Black men on the Jan. 5 flight.

The men say they were told they would not be permitted back on the flight and would have to rebook. They allege that the employee responded to their questions by saying their removal was prompted by a white male flight attendant's complaint about "offensive" body odor. Per the suit, none of the men had specifically been accused of having an offensive smell. They claim they were selected because of their race. The New York Times reports it heard audio recorded on a cell phone in which an American Airlines employee says "I agree, I agree" when one of the men describes the removal as discriminatory.

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They say they were ultimately able to reboard about an hour later after it was determined there were no other flights they could take that day, reports the Guardian. The men are seeking compensation for the "fear, humiliation, embarrassment, mental pain, suffering, and inconvenience" they suffered, as well as punitive damages. The Washington Post cites their suit as stating it "is near impossible to imagine that American would ever treat white customers in a similar manner." American says it is "currently investigating the matter, as the claims do not reflect our core values or our purpose of caring for people." (More American Airlines stories.)

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