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Three African-Americans Sue American Airlines Over Racial Discrimination Incident

Three black men alleged racial discrimination after being removed from an American Airlines flight due to a “body odour” complaint.

Three black men have filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against American Airlines, alleging that the airline briefly removed them from a flight following a complaint about body odour.

The men, who were not seated together and did not know each other, claim that every Black man on the January 5th flight from Phoenix to New York was removed.

“American Airlines singled us out for being Black, embarrassed us, and humiliated us,” the men said in a joint statement. The Texas-based airline stated it is investigating the matter, as the allegations do not align with its values.

According to the federal lawsuit filed by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, the men had already taken their seats and were preparing to depart when a flight attendant asked them to exit the plane. Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph, and Xavier Veal allege that they realized “every Black man on the flight was being removed” as they were leaving.

The men had previously flown from Los Angeles that day without incident. At the flight gate, they, along with five others, were told by an airline agent that they had been “removed because a white male flight attendant had complained about an unidentified passenger’s body odour.” The men assert that there is no explanation other than racial discrimination.

American Airlines employees attempted to re-book the men on other flights, but no flights to New York were available that night. Eventually, they were allowed to re-board their original flight. 

In a statement, American Airlines said, “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 lawsuit also claims that the pilot announced a delay due to an issue with “body odour” while the men waited outside the plane. The plaintiffs state that this claim was false and that they experienced significant embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, anger, and distress throughout the flight.

One of the plaintiffs, Mr. Joseph, compared the “alienating” experience to Civil Rights hero Rosa Parks’ 1955 bus incident. He emphasized that the lawsuit aims to ensure American Airlines does not escape with merely a “slap on the wrist.”

In 2017, the NAACP issued a travel advisory recommending Black Americans avoid American Airlines due to discrimination but lifted it the following year after the airline announced changes to its operations.

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