American Airlines was hit by a racial discrimination lawsuit by black passengers who had been removed from a flight following a body odor complaint.

The lawsuit was brought by three of the eight passengers who were forced to disembark a Jan. 5 American Airlines flight from Phoenix to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport “without any valid reason, and solely based on their race.”

Right before takeoff, a flight attendant allegedly approached the three plaintiffs—Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph, and Xavier Veal—and demanded that they leave the plane along with five other black passengers.

The eight men did not know each other and were not seated near each other, according to the complaint filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on May 29.

Once they were off the plane, an airline representative allegedly told the men they would need to be rebooked on another flight. They also learned the reason behind their removal was that a white male flight attendant had allegedly complained about an unidentified black male passenger’s “offensive body odor,” according to the lawsuit.

“None of the Plaintiffs had offensive body odor and at no time did anyone ever specifically accuse any of them of having offensive body odor,” the lawsuit states.

After being stuck at the gate for about an hour, the plaintiffs and the other removed passengers were eventually allowed back on the plane. The complaint alleged that the airline reversed course only because it could not find an alternative flight to JFK airport that evening.

“Throughout the ordeal … the three Plaintiffs experienced profound feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, anger, and distress,” the complaint reads, noting that it only added to the humiliating experience when they had to endure the suspicious stares of the “almost exclusively white” passengers while returning to their seats.

American Airlines said in a statement to The Epoch Times that it is investigating the incident and that the claims did not reflect the company’s values.

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

The suit based itself on a contract law established in 1866 in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. The three black men accused the airline of violating the Reconstruction-era law, which declares that all people shall have the same right regarding contracts and property as that “enjoyed by white citizens.”

“Plaintiffs contracted with American but were subjected to disparate—and substantially worse—terms and conditions of contract than white passengers,” the complaint alleged.

The May 29 lawsuit further accused American Airlines of having a “pattern of racial bigotry” against non-white passengers. As an example, it pointed to a 2017 travel advisory by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) warning black travelers that they could be subjected to “disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions” aboard American Airlines flights.

In response to the 2017 advisory, American Airlines promised, among other changes, to conduct a “top-to-bottom review” of the company’s human resources and business policies related to “diversity and inclusion,” create a new customer service team specializing in handling discrimination complaints, and implement training on “implicit bias” for each of its 120,000 employees.

The promises prompted the NAACP to rescind that advisory in 2018. At the organization’s national convention in San Antonio, NAACP President Derrick Johnson said he was encouraged by the “commitment to improve upon their internal processes and increase inclusion across their airline.”

“We’re pleased with the outcome we’ve seen,” Mr. Johnson said at that time.

Last year, American Airlines issued an apology to black musician David Ryan Harris after he was stopped by an employee at Los Angeles International Airport on suspicion of trafficking his own biracial children. This incident was not mentioned in the suit.

From The Epoch Times

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