The NAACP took the extraordinary measure on Tuesday to issue a travel advisory to warn all travelers, and specifically African Americans, about the apparent dangers of flying with American Airlines.
“The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” a statement by the organization reads. “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 disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”
The NAACP added that the advisory will remain in effect until further notice.
In a statement provided to Travel + Leisure, American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said, “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. Every day American is committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us.”
Gilson said American Airlines would invite NAACP representatives to the airline's headquarters in Texas.
“We are committed to having a meaningful dialogue about our airline and are ready to both listen and engage,” Gilson said.
The NAACP outlined several incidents in recent months that led to its decision to issue the advisory. The first incident, the NAACP said, involved an African-American man who was “required to relinquish his purchased seats aboard a flight from Washington, D.C. to Raleigh-Durham,” because he allegedly responded to “disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him” by two unruly white passengers.
The next incident, according to the NAACP, involved an African-American woman who was forced to give up her first class seat, which she had previously booked and paid for, while her white traveling companion remained in his or her assigned first-class seat.
The third incident involved a pilot who was flying from New York City from Miami. The pilot reportedly 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.” That woman was Tamika Mallory, an activist who co-chaired the Women’s March on Washington.
And finally, the fourth incident involved another African-American woman, who was traveling with her infant child from Atlanta to New York City. The woman and her child were removed from the flight after she asked that her stroller be retrieved from checked baggage before she would disembark, according to the NAACP.
“All travelers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP. “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.”
This isn’t the first time the NAACP has issued a travel advisory. In August, the organization, which is the largest nonpartisan civil rights organization in the nation, issued a travel warning for the state of Missouri. That warning called on African-American travelers, visitors, and all Missourians to “pay special attention and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the state given the series of questionable, race-based incidents occurring statewide recently, and noted therein.”