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Black travelers warned by NAACP about flying American Airlines after 'disturbing incidents

A series of "disturbing incidents" led the NAACP to warn black travelers to "exercise caution" when flying American Airlines. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A series of "disturbing incidents" led the NAACP to warn black travelers to "exercise caution" when flying American Airlines.

The NAACP said in a statement Tuesday that it's observed a pattern of unfair treatment toward black passengers who've been removed from seats and flights.

The civil rights organization listed four incidents:

  1. An African-American man was required to relinquish his purchased seat aboard a flight from Washington, D.C., to Raleigh-Durham, merely because he responded to disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers;
  2. Despite having previously booked first-class tickets for herself and a traveling companion, an African-American woman’s seating assignment was switched to the coach section at the ticket counter, while her white companion remained assigned to a first-class seat;
  3. On a flight bound for New York from Miami, the pilot directed that an African-American woman be removed from the flight when she complained to the gate agent about having her seating assignment changed without her consent; and
  4. An African-American woman and her infant child were removed from a flight from Atlanta to New York City when the woman (incidentally a Harvard Law School student) asked that her stroller be retrieved from checked baggage before she would disembark.

The NAACP's statement noted that black passengers who book or board American Airlines flights could be subjected to "disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions." The travel advisory was issued Tuesday and will remain in effect until further notice.

“All travelers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm,” Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO, said in a statement. “The growing list of incidents suggesting racial bias reflects an unacceptable corporate culture and involves behavior that cannot be dismissed as normal or random. We expect an audience with the leadership of American Airlines to air these grievances and to spur corrective action.  Until these and other concerns are addressed, this national travel advisory will stand."

How is American Airlines responding?

American Airlines said it plans to invite NAACP officials to meet with airline officials at its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, USA Today reported.

"We are disappointed to hear about this travel advisory as our team members – a diverse community of gate agents, pilots, and flight attendants – are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds," American Airlines said in a statement, the paper noted. "Every day American is committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us."

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