American Airlines accused of discrimination in lawsuit

Three black men have accused American Airlines of “blatant racial discrimination” following their temporary expulsion, along with five other men, from a flight in January. 5 flight from Phoenix to New York, in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The men said they were sitting on a plane at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport when an airline employee went through them row by row asking them to get off the plane. As they exited, passengers noticed that all of the black men on the flight, eight in total, appeared to have been evacuated. The men did not know each other, according to the lawsuit filed on their behalf by the legal arm of Public Citizen, a liberal nonprofit group, and the law firm Outten & Golden.

Once off the plane, the men demanded an explanation from an airline employee, who said they had been kicked out because of a complaint about body odor, even though no one had blamed the men with an unpleasant odor, according to the complaint. A U.S. official told the men at the time that the complaint came from a white flight attendant.

The men said they were chosen because of their race. When the plane’s removal was called discriminatory, a U.S. employee said, “I agree, I agree,” according to a cellphone recording shared with The New York Times.

“We take all allegations of discrimination very seriously and want our customers to have a positive experience when they choose to travel with us,” American said in a statement. “Our teams are currently investigating the matter, as these allegations do not reflect our core values ​​or our desire to care for people.”

The men are seeking compensation for the “fear, humiliation, embarrassment, mental pain, suffering and inconvenience” they endured as well as punitive damages, according to the complaint filed in federal court in Brooklyn.

They also want changes in America, which has already been accused of racism. In 2017, the NAACP warned Black travelers against the airline, citing several examples of what it called discrimination. The group dropped its warning about nine months later, after American began responding to the organization’s complaints.

“This case is on behalf of the three individual plaintiffs seeking relief for what they experienced, but it’s bigger than that,” said Michael Kirkpatrick, the lead attorney working on the case for Public Citizen Litigation Group. “What we hope to accomplish with this case are changes in which American Airlines reforms its practices and brings about a change in its culture.”

The men said they waited about an hour at the gate outside the plane before being allowed to board again.

Alvin Jackson, one of the men suing the airline, said he was returning home from touring California with his rock band, Miranda and the Beat. He plays bass guitar.

“There’s all these people looking at us like, ‘Oh, you all just got fired.’ Why are you coming back now?’ » Mr. Jackson said. “I tried to get into a shell in my seat. I didn’t want to get up to go to the bathroom.

Before leaving the plane at New York’s Kennedy Airport around midnight, Mr. Jackson asked to speak to someone about the episode. The flight crew told him to speak to a representative inside the terminal, but once he exited, no U.S. employees were present and the jet bridge door was closed behind him, he said. declared.

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