October 25, 2017 / 3:27 PM / a year ago

U.S. black rights group warns travelers off American Airlines

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The leading U.S. black civil rights group has urged black travelers not to fly with American Airlines after what it called a pattern of racially biased incidents reported by passengers.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) accused the airline of subjecting black passengers to “disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions” as part of a corporate culture of racial insensitivity.

“Historically, the NAACP has issued travel advisories when conditions on the ground pose a substantial risk of harm to black Americans,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday. It said some recent incidents “may represent only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to American Airlines’ documented mistreatment of African-American customers.”

The advisory against American Airlines is the second such warning the group has issued this year. In August it advised African-Americans to exercise extreme caution in Missouri, based on data that showed black drivers were much more likely to be stopped and searched by police in the state than white drivers.

American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker said he was disappointed by the NAACP’s move and that the carrier had contacted the group to arrange a meeting.

“The mission statement of the NAACP states that it ‘seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination,’” Parker wrote in a letter to employees on Wednesday, which was seen by Reuters. “That’s a mission that the people of American Airlines endorse and facilitate every day - we do not and will not tolerate discrimination at any time.”

Tamika Mallory, national co-chair of the Women's March, takes part in the Pride and Prejudice conference sponsored by The Economist in New York, U.S., March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The NAACP said it has not yet been in contact with American Airlines to schedule a meeting.

The group’s advisory comes a week after popular black activist Tamika Mallory was removed from an American Airlines flight from Miami to New York after a seating dispute with a gate agent.

The incident attracted widespread attention after Mallory took to Twitter to accuse the plane’s pilot of asserting “his white male power” by having her removed, tagging a series of tweets #FlyingWhileBlack.

After the incident with Mallory, American Airlines said it had invited her to meet at the airline’s Fort Worth, Texas-headquarters. Mallory wrote on Twitter that a meeting would be scheduled in the “near future.”

In its Tuesday statement, the NAACP cited three other recent incidents between American Airlines and black passengers. In one case, a black man was forced to give up his seat on a Washington D.C. flight “merely because he responded to disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers,” according to the NAACP.

It was not immediately clear if the advisory was having an effect on Wednesday, although American Airlines was a top trending topic on Twitter with more than 9,800 tweets mentioning the carrier. The company’s shares were down 1.7 percent at $51.03.

Some of the top words associated with American Airlines were “boycott” and “racial discrimination,” according to social media analytics firms Zoomph.

Reporting by Alana Wise; Additonal reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Bill Rigby

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