American Airlines Suspends Employees Involved in Removal of Black Passengers Due to False Body Odor Complaint

By Trisha Andrada

Jun 21, 2024 03:14 AM EDT

American Airlines has placed several workers on leave who are involved in the brief removal of Black passengers from a flight in Phoenix due to a complaint of body odor.

American Airlines CEO: Unacceptable Incident

The incident, which happened in January, was deemed unacceptable by American Airlines CEO Robert Isom. CBS News reported that in a memo sent to the staff this week, Isom expressed his deep disappointment with what happened on that aircraft and the failure of their protocols.

He said it contradicts the company's values and that they failed to live up to their commitments. Isom added that American Airlines would establish an advisory council to hear Black customers' experiences, encourage filing discrimination claims, and enhance diversity training by making it more scenario-based so that the staff can better identify and combat discrimination.

An airline spokesperson also confirmed to the Associated Press that the company removed team members from service as it holds those involved accountable. However, the number of suspended workers and the details of their job descriptions were not disclosed.

Read Also: American Airlines Threatened With Travel Ban by NAACP After 8 Black Men Were Removed From Flight

American Airlines Faces Leadership Change and Financial Struggles, Says CEO
Robert Isom, CEO of American Airlines, speaks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Aerospace Summit on September 12, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo : Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Racial Discrimination Lawsuit of 3 Black Passengers vs. American Airlines

In late May, American Airlines was sued by three Black men who claimed that racial discrimination led to their removal from the flight that was bound for New York.

As they waited for the flight to take off, the three men said they were not sitting together since they had no prior knowledge of each other. They noted that they were then ordered to disembark from the aircraft with five other passengers, all Black males.

They were removed because an unnamed white male flight attendant reportedly complained about a passenger's body odor, an airline employee told them. They had to wait around for an hour before they could board the aircraft again.

However, the men noted that returning to their seats after the unwarranted delay was even more embarrassing. In a statement, the airline said it was looking into the claims of discrimination because it wanted its customers to have a positive experience when flying with them. 

In line with the lawsuit, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) threatened to reinstate a travel ban on American Airlines earlier this month.

In his memo, Isom said he had already discussed the incident with the NAACP president. However, the civil rights group has yet to confirm or comment about it.

Read More: American Airlines Passenger's Lost Suitcase Found in Hollywood Homeless Encampment, Contents Missing

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