Black passengers sue American Airlines over alleged ‘egregious race discrimination’

A lawsuit filed on Wednesday by three Black men accuses American Airlines of “blatant and egregious race discrimination” after they were removed from a flight “without any valid reason, based solely on their race.”

An American Airlines airplane is seen at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York City, U.S. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo(REUTERS)

The suit, representing Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph, Xavier Veal, and five other Black male passengers, stems from an incident on American Flight 832 from Phoenix to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City on January 5, 2024.

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The complaint alleges that an American Airlines representative approached each of the men before takeoff and ordered them off the plane, which they complied with.

“(O)nce they reached the jet bridge, they saw that several other Black men were also being removed from the plane. In fact, it appeared to Plaintiffs that American had ordered all of the Black male passengers on Flight 832 off the plane,” the lawsuit reads.

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Three black passengers removed without valid reason

The airline representatives allegedly cited a complaint about body odour as the reason for their removal, although none of the plaintiffs was personally informed of having offensive body odour “and in fact none of the Plaintiffs had offensive body odor.”

The complaint also alleges that at least one American representative agreed with the plaintiffs when they suggested they were singled out because of their race.

Footage captured the chaotic scene as the men questioned the airline’s actions. One man remarked, “So this is discrimination,” to which a woman, seemingly an airline employee, responded, “I agree, I agree.”

Another video showed a man expressing disbelief at the situation: “We’re the only ones getting taken off the plane,” he expressed, “Look at us.”

Despite not knowing each other before the flight and not being seated together, the plaintiffs were eventually allowed back on the plane after about an hour.

The lawsuit reads, “Plaintiffs then had to reboard the plane and endure the stares of the largely white passengers who viewed them as the cause of the substantial delay. They suffered during the entire flight home, and the entire incident was traumatic, upsetting, scary, humiliating, and degrading.”

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American Airlines responded to the allegations, stating, “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 seek “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,” along with litigation charges.

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