Jan 25, 2023 - Business

American Airlines accused of discrimination, again

Illustration of an unequal sign made from an airplane contrail

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Two recent high-profile incidents — including one involving Dallas-born track star Sha'Carri Richardson — have stirred up new allegations of discrimination against Fort Worth-based American Airlines.

Driving the news: New York-based rapper Talib Kweli claimed in an Instagram video last week that his rights were violated after he was threatened with arrest and removed from his plane over the size of his luggage, which he says was cleared at the gate.

  • Richardson was forced off her flight on Saturday after an argument with a flight attendant who Richardson said was harassing her and trying to intimidate her over shooting a video.
  • Kweli posted Richardson's video, saying the airline "is racist." He questioned whether the airline's flight attendants are "trained to profile, target and harass Black people."

Meanwhile: Another American Airlines traveler — a Black man — has filed a lawsuit in Florida that accuses the airline of "blatant racial discrimination" for kicking him off a flight from Miami to Atlanta after an argument with a flight attendant during the boarding process.

Why it matters: Black travelers report experiencing poor treatment across the travel industry, from home-share services like Airbnb to vacations abroad.

What they're saying: American Airlines said in a statement the company investigates all claims of discrimination.

  • "American Airlines strives to provide a positive and welcoming experience to everyone who travels with us and we take allegations of discrimination very seriously," the company told Axios.

Flashback: American has been accused of discriminating against Black travelers before, per the DMN.

  • The NAACP issued a travel advisory in 2017 telling Black people to avoid flying on American due to complaints about the airline. The NAACP dropped the advisory in 2018, and American implemented bias training and reviewed its complaint system.

What we're watching: Whether Richardson or Kweli will pursue legal action.

  • "If I can help just one person not have to deal with a situation like this with an individual like this, I’ll take the heat," Richardson wrote on Instagram.
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