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Passengers Sue American Airlines Alleging Racial Discrimination Over Removing Black Man From Flight
American Airlines is being sued by five passengers who say they were improperly removed from a flight because of racial discrimination.
According to the suit, a Black man asked if he could change seats on his flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix on May 31 to provide more space between him and other passengers.
The passenger, identified, as Elgin Banks said he was told by a flight attendant that he would have to wait until after boarding before he could change seats. According to the suit, Banks saw White passengers changing seats once the boarding process was completed. When Banks asked if he could take a seat closer to the lane, the suit alleges that a flight attendant told him to sit down and lower his voice.
Things took a turn for the worse after the flight attendant called security to have him removed from the plane, as reported by CNN.
Two of the other plaintiffs said he did not raise his voice, according to their affidavits.
American Airlines responded in a statement that Banks had asked to move into first-class and that he was not eligible for an upgrade. Banks, however, denies those claims and said he did not ask for a first-class seat in the lawsuit.
The other four passengers who brought the suit objected to his removal and were ordered off the plane, according to the suit. Three of the four plaintiffs identify as African American women and one as a White woman.
The incident caused American to cancel the flight altogether and passengers were given refunds or offered tickets on the flight the next day.
“The disruption on board required deplaning passengers,” American said in its statement. “Discrimination of any kind is not acceptable and does not align with our values, which is why we launched an investigation when we were made aware of the allegations. We are continuing to review this incident, but we believe that the allegations are not a full or accurate portrayal of the incident. All affected customers were provided with a hotel voucher unless they lived locally, as is our policy.”
CNN reports that the incident involving Banks happened just two days before CEO Doug Parker penned an essay to airline employees about listening to the concerns of Black Americans amid social unrest.
“These are trying times,” Parker wrote to American employees after his flight. “Our people are hurting. I’m not certain what all of the answers are, but I know it involves talking to each other. And listening. And it takes courage and leadership to start the conversation and to stand up for what is right. JacqueRae taught me all that. Please get out and talk to your teams today. Bring people together, not apart. We need caring leadership now more than ever.”
After hearing Parker’s statements on the multiple media outlets, Epstein, the White plaintiff in the case, said stated “the hypocrisy hurts, “in her affidavit. “He could start by making things right for Elgin Banks.”