Why Are Black Travelers Being Warned Not to Fly This Airline?

It's a remarkable advisory.

Customer service among the big commercial domestic airlines this year has had a far from stellar record. Who could forget the time a bloody passenger was dragged off a United flight, or when another high-profile incident saw teens booted for wearing leggings, for instance. But, according to one giant advocacy group, not all airline passengers are treated with equal indignity.

The NAACP took took a rather remarkable move this week to formally issue a travel advisory intended to warn all travelers, and specifically black Americans, about the danger of flying with one particular domestic carrier: American Airlines.

“The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” according to a statement from the organization. “In light of these confrontations, we have today taken the action of issuing national advisory alerting travelers — especially African Americans — to exercise caution, in that booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”

The group says the advisory will remain in effect indefinitely.

In a statement provided to Travel + Leisure, spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said on behalf of American, “We are disappointed to hear about this travel advisory as our team members — a diverse community of gate agents, pilots, and flight attendants — are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds. Every day American is committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us.”

She added that the airline would invite representatives from the NAACP to its Texas headquarters for a “meaningful dialogue about our airline,” which she said is “ready to both listen and engage.”

So what moved the group to issue the warning? It noted several recent incidents including an incident when a black man was required to give up his purchased seats because he allegedly responded to discriminatory comments made against him by white passengers; and a black woman who was forced to relinquish her paid-for first-class seat while her white travel partner was permitted to stay within the upper-class cabin.

T+L noted that this isn’t the first time the group has issued an advisory intended to warn black American travelers: In August, the group warned that travelers to Missouri should “pay special attention and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the state given the series of questionable, race-based incidents occurring statewide recently, and noted therein.”

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