Rights group warns black travellers against American Airlines

An American Airlines plane at the gate at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in Dallas, Texas.
An American Airlines plane at the gate at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in Dallas, Texas.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A leading US civil rights group is warning black travellers against flying on American Airlines, saying that they could face "disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe" treatment.

The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) said on Tuesday (Oct 24) that a series of "troublesome" recent incidents "suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines".

"In light of these confrontations, we have today taken the action of issuing national advisory alerting travellers - especially African Americans - to exercise caution, in that booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions," it said.

American Airlines chief executive officer Doug Parker said in a memo to employees on Wednesday that the firm was "disappointed" about the advisory, adding: "We do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind."

Following a request from the rights group, American is extending an invitation for NAACP representatives to meet with airline executives at its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.

"We have reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns," Parker said.

Among the incidents cited by the NAACP was one involving an African-American woman and her infant child who were removed from a flight from Atlanta to New York City after she asked that her stroller be retrieved from checked baggage before she left the plane.

The NAACP did not give names of the people involved in the incidents or indicate when they took place, and American did not comment on the specific allegations.