NAACP opens important dialogue about discrimination on American Airlines flights

Caroline Guthrie, Staff Writer

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has issued a travel warning for African Americans wishing to fly on American Airlines. This warning comes after many complaints have been made towards the staff on the airline regarding instances of discrimination and racism.

“The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” the group said in a statement early last week. “In light of these confrontations, we have today taken the action of issuing national advisory alerting travelers – especially African Americans – to exercise caution in that booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them to disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”

The group described four specific instances in which injustice occurred on the airline. One included an African American man who was forced to give up his seat after he replied to discriminatory comments directed at him by the airline’s crew. The organization also mentioned an instance in which an African American woman was forced out of first class into coach, while her white counterpart was not.

American Airlines responded to the statement with a commitment to address these issues.

“Discrimination, exclusion and unconscious biases are enormous problems that no one’s mastered and we would never suggest that we have it all figured out. What we know is we want to keep learning and we want to get even better,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said.

Although Parker insisted he did not observe a decrease in bookings, shares declined since the observance. According to CNBC, “shares of American Airlines fell 4.7 percent [on Oct. 26]. Competitor Delta dropped 2.5 percent, United shares were up modestly and Southwest lost 3.6 percent.”

After the news broke, people throughout the United States responded on Twitter with the hashtag #Happened2MeOnAA, citing their encounters with discrimination. “American Airlines” trended for awhile. It is apparent that actions must be taken to reprimand those who committed these acts, and an ongoing commitment must be pursued to eliminate all acts of discrimination on these flights.

This is not the first time that the NAACP has issued a statement suggesting the presence of racism on airlines. Back in August, they released a statement warning, “Pay special attention and exercise extreme caution when traveling through [Missouri] given the series of questionable, race-based incidents occurring statewide recently.”

It is imperative that organizations like the NAACP continue to monitor and address incidents of discrimination. It is truly sad that acts like these still occur, but it is critical that they be addressed and so that actions can be taken to respond to and combat them. Thankfully, in this case American Airlines responded with a plan to improve their services and prevent further discrimination on their flights. The NAACP’s statement has opened a gateway to a more constructive discussion about these issues; hopefully other industries that are plagued by racially discriminatory practices will imitate their decision to take action.

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