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NAACP issues travel advisory for black fliers of American Airlines

William E. Ketchum III

 // Oct 25, 2017

Weeks after allegations of racial discrimination by activist Tamika Mallory brought the practices of American Airlines under question, the NAACP has issued a travel advisory for black customers of the company.

"The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines," the legendary civil rights organization said in a statement. "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. This travel advisory is in effect beginning today, October 24, 2017, until further notice."

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The advisory lists four different incidents to illustrate that American Airlines may have "a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias." They include Mallory's incident in recent weeks, which saw her kicked off of a plane after she says she complained to a gate agent about her seating assignment getting changed. She was scheduled to fly home to New York from Miami after attending the REVOLT Music Conference. It also references the incident of Briana Williams, a Harvard Law student who says she was kicked off of a flight with her infant child after she asked for her stroller to be returned during a delay. Williams told the NY Daily News that she and her baby had to spend the night in the airport as a result.

"All travelers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm," said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson as part of the advisory. "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."

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According to The Coueur d'Alene Press, a spokesman for American Airlines said that they apologized for the mishandling of getting Mallory her new seat, but that the company "does not tolerate discrimination of any kind," and that Mallory was kicked off the flight to "de-escalate a situation onboard the aircraft." Mallory disputes the idea of her exit being an issue of de-escalation, since she says she had been peacefully seated for 15 minutes before she was kicked off the flight.

Mallory said last week that she spoke with American Airlines representatives, who acknowledged that her seating arrangement was mishandled. But she said she still hadn't spoken with senior management as she requested, and that the representative who she spoke to didn't know everything that happened, and that the airline didn't address the pilot's conduct. She has demanded an investigation into the protocol of pilot-customer interaction.

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