#FlyingWhileBlack: Harvard Law School Student Booted From American Airlines Plane With Infant

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

There’s news of yet another black woman being hostilely removed from an American Airlines airplane.


This time it was a 24-year-old Harvard Law student who was traveling with her 4-month-old baby from Atlanta to New York. She and her infant daughter were forced to sleep in the airport to catch the first flight out the next morning after being booted from their flight.

Briana Williams was on her way to visit family Aug. 21 when, she says, she was humiliated and forcibly removed from an American plane after she asked for her stroller during a five-hour delay due to weather.

Williams contacted the New York Daily News after seeing the story about activist Tamika Mallory, who was also kicked off an American Airlines flight on Sunday, as previously reported by The Root.

Williams is a Harvard Law School student and she said she plans to sue.

In both cases, the women were removed by the plane’s pilot, who seems to wield an inordinate amount of power to enact discriminatory practices against black women.


“This type of unregulated discretion is a segue into discriminatory policy,” said Williams.

Williams also said that the pilot literally put her life in danger by labeling her a “threat.”


“The pilot put me in a potentially dangerous situation with law enforcement as a young black woman, saying that I was a ‘threat,’” Williams said. “This type of rhetoric paralyzes the African-American community, and I want to ensure that policies are put in place that regulate the pilot’s discretionary abilities.”

Once American announced that her flight was delayed, Williams, who was carrying her baby and three bags, asked airline staff to return the stroller she had checked at the gate.


Airline staff refused, and Williams said that she would not leave without her stroller.

The pilot was called. She said he asked her where she worked and that she refused to answer (because, relevance?).


According to witnesses, the pilot then called police to kick Williams and her baby(!) off the plane.

“He was very disgruntled and aggressive,” said Williams, who says she remained calm.


American offered the Boston-based mom 25,000 flying miles because the crew’s “behavior deviated from standard,” but she declined.

Like Williams, Mallory is considering filing a lawsuit against American. Mallory says that since her story went public, she has been contacted by other black women who say they have been disrespected on planes.


Isn’t it funny that “American” Airlines has a problem with black folk? Ha.

Read more at the New York Daily News.

Editor’s note: The stories below all involve American Airlines and black women.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.



When baby items are gate checked, they go into the hold last, so that they can be quickly retrieved as parents deplane. There would be no “digging around in checked luggage” for it, it’s literally the last thing they put in. AA refusing to go get it was just a dick move, especially when she’s traveling solo with a baby.