American Airlines Slammed With Lawsuit By Black Passengers Following Alleged Racial Discrimination

A lawsuit filed on May 29 alleges “blatant and egregious race discrimination” by American Airlines after three Black men were removed from a flight due to a false complaint about body odor.

The plaintiffs, Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph, and Xavier Veal, along with five other Black male passengers, were removed from American Flight 832 from Phoenix to JFK in New York City. The incident took place on January 5, 2024.

Inside the legal complaint, it states that an American Airlines representative approached each of the men before takeoff, ordering them off the plane without providing a valid reason. Upon reaching the jet bridge, the men noticed several other Black male passengers being removed from the flight as well. The plaintiffs allege that American Airlines had ordered all the Black male passengers on Flight 832 off the plane.

American Airlines representatives claimed that a complaint about body odor is what prompted their removal. However, none of the plaintiffs were personally told they had body odor, and they insist that none of them had offensive body odor. The lawsuit also alleges that at least one American Airlines representative agreed with the plaintiffs when they suggested they had been singled out due to their race.

Furthermore, cell phone footage taken by some of the men captures the hectic display as they questioned the airline’s actions. In one video, a man can be heard saying, “So this is discrimination,” to which a woman wearing an airline employee badge responds, “I agree, I agree.” Another video shows a man commenting, “This is crazy. Y’all just took like eight Black people off the plane.”

Adding to the scrutiny, the plaintiffs did not know each other before the flight and were not seated together, deepening suspicions of racial discrimination. At the gate, the men were informed that a White male flight attendant had made the body odor complaint.

Eventually, after about an hour, the men were allowed back on the plane when the airline determined there were no other available flights that evening. They were then forced to endure the glaring stares of largely white passengers who viewed them as the cause of the lengthy setback. The lawsuit describes the incident as “traumatic, upsetting, scary, humiliating, and degrading.”

American Airlines released a statement regarding the incident: “We take all claims of discrimination very seriously and want our customers to have a positive experience when they choose to fly with us. Our teams are currently investigating the matter, as the claims do not reflect our core values or our purpose of caring for people.”

The plaintiffs are pursuing  “declaratory relief, just compensation for their pain and suffering, a punitive damage award sufficient to deter American from discriminating against Black passengers in the future,”  as well as attorney fees. 

The lawsuit also cites a 2017 NAACP warning related to the airline, which found a pattern of American Airlines discriminating against Black passengers. That warning was lifted nine months later after the airline addressed the organization’s concerns.

The lawsuit claims that the plaintiffs’ treatment was just a continuation of this ongoing pattern of discrimination by American Airlines.

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