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NAACP warns of flying while black on American Airlines

African-Americans have long warned of the extra scrutiny that comes when “driving while black.” Now the NAACP is adding flying to that list.

The organization issued a travel advisory Tuesday warning African-Americans that “booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them to disrespectful, discriminatory, or unsafe conditions.” It appears to be the first ever airline travel warning the organization has issued.


According to the NAACP, the advisory came after the organization became aware of “a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines.”

“All travelers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson in a statement. “The growing list of incidents suggesting racial bias reflects an unacceptable corporate culture and involves behavior that cannot be dismissed as normal or random.”

American Airlines did not respond to a request for comment, but CEO Doug Parker addressed the warning in a memo to staff yesterday that was shared with reporters, according to CNN.

“We fly over borders, walls and stereotypes to connect people from different races, religions, nationalities, economic backgrounds and sexual orientations,” Parker said in the memo. “We do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

The NAACP’s warning refers to four incidents involving black passengers.

In one case, an African-American man had to give up his seats after responding to discriminatory comments from white passengers. In another, a woman got removed from her flight to New York after asking if staff could retrieve her baby’s stroller from checked baggage before she deplaned.

Though names and dates of the incidents weren’t included in the advisory, one situation it mentions is similar to a case from earlier this month, when the pilot of an American Airlines plane personally intervened to remove Tamika Mallory, one of the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, from a flight after she had a dispute with airline staff over her seat assignment.

“Only reason this pilot got involved was to assert his white male power over who he thought was just some uppity black girl,” Mallory tweeted. American Airlines apologized for the incident.

The NAACP did not respond to a request for comment.

American Airlines has reached out to the NAACP to meet and discuss the travel advisory.

In August, the 108-year-old NAACP issued its first travel advisory ever at the state or national level, warning people of color about traveling to Missouri.