American airline faces backlash after removing Black passengers over alleged body odour

American Airlines’ Chief Executive, Robert Isom, has condemned the removal of several Black passengers from a flight, calling the incident “unacceptable.”

The controversy began when multiple Black passengers were taken off a flight in Phoenix after a complaint about body odour.

Following this incident, American Airlines placed an unspecified number of employees on leave.

Isom expressed deep disappointment over the event,
stating, “I am incredibly disappointed by what happened on that flight and the breakdown of our procedures. It contradicts our values. … We fell short of our commitments and failed our customers in this incident,” according to the Associated Press.

Last month, three of the affected passengers filed a lawsuit against the airline, alleging racial discrimination. They reported that a white male flight attendant had complained about an unnamed passenger’s body odour.

These three men, who did not know each other and were seated separately, were among eight Black men asked to leave the flight.

During a confrontation with airline staff on the jet bridge, the passengers sought clarification on why they were removed.

One of the men recorded the exchange, capturing an airline employee seemingly acknowledging the discrimination. After about an hour, the passengers were permitted to reboard the plane.

American Airlines has not revealed the number or specific roles of the employees who were put on leave. However, a spokesperson affirmed that those involved are being held accountable and have been removed from service.

In response to the incident, Isom announced the creation of an advisory group to improve the experiences of Black customers, encourage the reporting of discrimination, and enhance diversity training to address bias. He also mentioned discussing the matter with the president of the NAACP, though the organization did not provide a comment.

This incident is not the first time American Airlines has faced allegations of discrimination. In 2017, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for Black passengers flying with the airline due to numerous discrimination complaints. American Airlines made commitments to address these issues, resulting in the advisory being lifted nearly nine months later.

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