In 2017, the NAACP issued a travel advisory against American Airlines for just being flat out racist. Three years later, the airline is now facing a lawsuit because a flight attendant just couldn’t stop her inner Karen from hopping out.
NBC News reports that Elgin Banks and four other passengers are filing a racial discrimination lawsuit against American Airlines. Banks was on a flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix when he asked if he could switch seats should any be available after the plane had finished boarding. Banks was initially told he could. After being informed the flight had finished boarding and seeing several white passengers switch seats, Elgin asked a flight attendant if he could move.
From NBC News:
“The flight attendant replied, ‘Sir, step back,’ in an aggressive and rudely intimidating tone,” the suit reads. “Elgin replied, ‘okay ma’am, all I was asking is if I could get a seat closer to the front.’ “
The attendant told Banks not to raise his voice and told him to sit down. Part of the incident was caught on cellphone video, according to KTLA, which first reported the story.
Banks did as he was told, but soon after was approached by security and told he had to get off the plane. Several passengers asked why Banks was being removed.
Banks was then removed from the flight along with the passengers who advocated that he shouldn’t be removed. Banks’ attorney, Theida Salazar, said that Banks and the four other passengers were then informed that they were banned from American Airlines. “Silence is not an option anymore. When you see something that is wrong and unethical ... we need to stand up and say something,” Brandy Flowers, one of the removed passengers and a plaintiff in the case, told KTLA.
American Airlines disputes this account and said that the passengers were not banned and were given hotel vouchers if they weren’t local residents. “During the boarding process, he attempted to relocate to the first-class cabin prior to leaving the gate. One of the seats he attempted to sit in was assigned to another passenger. The disruption on board required deplaning passengers with the flight departing the next day,” a spokesperson for American Airlines said in a statement.
This is not the first or even second time that American Airlines has come under fire for being racist. The rapper Wale tweeted in 2018 that a flight attendant threatened to call the cops because he didn’t look like he belonged in first class. Last year, two Muslim men accused the airline of racially profiling them after being deemed “suspicious” for flushing twice in the bathroom. The result of that incident was the company announcing internal changes and implementing company wide bias training.
That training clearly didn’t work.