DALLAS (AP) — The NAACP is warning African-Americans that if they fly on American Airlines they could be subject to discrimination or even unsafe conditions.
American’s CEO said Wednesday that he was disappointed by the announcement and that American wants to discuss the matter with the civil rights group.
The Baltimore-based NAACP said that for several months it has watched a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers. Among them were separate cases in which an NAACP official and another civil rights activist were kicked off flights.
The NAACP said that and other recent incidents involving African-Americans “suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines.”
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American Airlines issued a statement saying that it has a diverse group of employees and serves customers of all backgrounds.
In a memo to employees, CEO Doug Parker said American endorses the NAACP’s mission statement against racial discrimination.
“We do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Parker wrote. “We have reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns.”
The NAACP highlighted four recent incidents in which African-American passengers said they were treated in a discriminatory way.
One involved the head of the North Carolina NAACP, the Rev. William Barber, who sued American after being removed from a flight last year from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Barber said police were called and removed him from the plane after he asked a flight attendant to tell a white passenger behind him to quiet down.
Barber accused the other passenger of making a comment about having a problem with “those people.”
An incident last week involved Tamika Mallory, an organizer of the Women’s March on Washington in January. Mallory had changed her seat at an airport kiosk, only to be told at the gate that the seat had been assigned to another customer.
Mallory said she was treated disrespectfully by the gate agent — another African-American woman — and was outraged when a white male pilot asked if she could control herself while on the flight.
After being told she was being kicked off the plane, Mallory called the pilot a racist in a profanity-laced exchange. She took a later flight home to New York on American, then held a press conference two days later and threatened to take legal action against the airline.
American, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is the world’s largest airline. The NAACP describes itself as the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization.
David Koenig can be reached at http://twitter.com/airlinewriter