American Airlines suspends crew members after Black passengers were kicked off flight

American Airlines suspends crew members after Black passengers were kicked off flight

DALLAS — American Airlines has come under scrutiny after a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination led to the suspension of multiple employees.

The lawsuit, filed in May by three passengers, claims that eight Black men were removed from a flight in January solely based on their race.

The three plaintiffs, Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph, and Xavier Veal, were among the eight Black men who were strangers and seated separately on the flight.

American Airlines suspends crew members after Black passengers were kicked off flight

According to the lawsuit, the men were ordered off the plane due to a complaint about body odor.

“In fact, it appeared to Plaintiffs that American had ordered all of the Black male passengers on Flight 832 off the plane,” the complaint reads, accusing the airline of “blatant and egregious race discrimination.”

In response to the allegations, American Airlines issued a statement to BBC and AP News, stating, “We are holding those involved accountable, including removing team members from service.”

CEO’s response and commitment to change

CEO Robert Isom addressed the incident in a letter to employees on Tuesday, June 18, expressing his disappointment and outlining steps to prevent future discrimination.

“I am incredibly disappointed by what happened on that flight and the breakdown of our procedures,” Isom wrote. “We fell short of our commitments and failed our customers in this incident.”

Isom announced the formation of an advisory group dedicated to improving the experiences of Black passengers and encouraging the reporting of discrimination incidents.

The company will also provide additional employee training, create a long-term diversity plan, and review operational manuals.

“Be assured that we are steadfast in our commitment to working with the NAACP and other civil rights organizations to learn from this incident, listen to and rebuild trust with you, our team members, and our Black customers, and to delivering the best possible experience with American,” Isom’s letter stated.

Historical context and ongoing investigation

The lawsuit highlights a historical pattern of racial discrimination by American Airlines, referencing a 2017 NAACP travel advisory that was lifted in 2018.

In court documents obtained by PEOPLE, the plaintiffs claimed that the airline has “a documented history of frequently subjecting Black passengers (and other passengers of color) to differential treatment and bigotry.”

American Airlines has reiterated its commitment to investigating the matter thoroughly.

“We take all claims of discrimination very seriously and want our customers to have a positive experience when they choose to fly with us,” the airline told PEOPLE.

“Our teams are currently investigating the matter, as the claims do not reflect our core values or our purpose of caring for people.”

The outcome of the lawsuit and the effectiveness of American Airlines’ measures to address and prevent discrimination will be closely watched by the public and civil rights organizations alike.

As the airline works to rebuild trust, the industry at large may also need to examine and improve its practices to ensure fair treatment for all passengers.