Black Men Sue American Airlines Over Body Odor Complaint

Black Men Sue American Airlines Over Body Odor Complaint

Black Men Sue American Airlines Over Body Odor Complaint

By Boniface Ihiasota, USA

Three Black men have filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against American Airlines, alleging that the carrier briefly removed them from a flight after a complaint about body odor.

The men, who were not seated together and did not know each other, claim that every Black man was removed from the January 5 flight from Phoenix, Arizona, to New York. “American Airlines singled us out for being Black, embarrassed us, and humiliated us,” the men said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

American Airlines, based in Texas, stated it is investigating the matter, as the allegations do not align with its values.

The federal lawsuit, filed by consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, describes how the men had already taken their seats and were preparing to depart Phoenix when a flight attendant approached each of them and asked them to exit the plane.

Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph, and Xavier Veal allege that as they were leaving, they realized that “every Black man on the flight was being removed.” Each of the men had flown from Los Angeles earlier that day without issue.

At the flight gate, the three men, along with five others, were informed by an airline agent that they had been “removed because a white male flight attendant had complained about an unidentified passenger’s body odor.” “There is no explanation other than the color of our skin,” the men said in a statement on Wednesday. “Clearly this was racial discrimination.”

American Airlines employees attempted to rebook the men on other flights, but there were no other services to New York that night. Eventually, the group was allowed to re-take their seats on their original flight.

In a statement obtained by Excel Magazine International, American Airlines said, “We take all claims of discrimination very seriously and want our customers to have a positive experience when they choose to fly with us. Our teams are currently investigating the matter, as the claims do not reflect our core values or our purpose of caring for people.”

The lawsuit adds that while the men waited outside the plane, the pilot made an announcement telling passengers there was a delay due to an issue with “body odor.” The plaintiffs claim the odor allegation was false.

“Throughout the flight – from the moment of their reboarding, in each interaction with the white male flight attendant, and continuing until landing – Plaintiffs experienced profound feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, anger, and distress,” the lawsuit states.

“The act of returning to their seats after the unwarranted delay, navigating past the predominantly white passengers, several of whom eyed them with anger and undue suspicion, compounded their humiliation.”

The lawsuit demands that the airline pay unspecified damages for the “trauma” the men endured.

Mr. Joseph, one of the plaintiffs, told the BBC that the “alienating” experience reminded him of Civil Rights hero Rosa Parks being forced to move to the back of an Alabama bus in 1955 due to state-sanctioned racial discrimination.

“It’s a strange, crazy story that in 2024 we are still going through stuff like this,” said Mr. Joseph. He added that the lawsuit is necessary to ensure American Airlines does not end up “with a slap on the wrist.”

Recall in 2017, the NAACP issued a travel advisory urging Black Americans to avoid American Airlines due to discrimination. The advisory was lifted the following year after the carrier announced operational changes.

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