American Airlines, an already troubled carrier in terms of passenger satisfaction and customer service, is at the center of an unusual travel advisory issued by the United States National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). According to a recent NAACP press release, passengers of African heritage could be flying the unfriendly skies aboard American Airlines. The advisory was made public on the evening of October 24, and it was issued along with a letter to the air carrier, requesting to meet and talk openly about certain issues that African Americans and other racial minorities may face on American Airlines flights.
While explaining the travel advisory to the press, a spokesperson for the NAACP mentioned four worrisome incidents in recent months that prompted the organization to warn the public about what seems to be a pattern of discrimination against certain passengers. In all cases, African American passengers were removed from flights; one case in particular involved a heated exchange between passengers who were responding to prejudiced statements.
It took American Airlines 24 hours to respond to the travel advisory, which the NAACP insists is not a boycott, although passengers may choose to take such action on their own. That letter, which was signed by the air carrier’s president, Doug Parker, and addressed to employees, expressed disappointment at the advisory while at the same time encouraging to meet with the NAACP for the purpose of listening and resolving any issues. The travel advisory comes in the wake of the election of Derrick Johnson as NAACP president. Johnson is known as a passionate social justice activist, and his new post may offer clues as to the new direction that this esteemed organization may be taking in the Trump era. One of Johnson’s first policy moves was to change the organization’s status so that it may operate in the political realm.
Recent updates from the NAACP indicate that American Airlines executives are moving fast to address the issue; moreover, the organization has also stated that airline employees have spoken anonymously about what they perceive as discriminatory practices. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Johnson addressed various issues currently impacting African Americans and minorities in the US. He said the NAACP has recognized the challenges brought on by the Trump administration; he added that the organization is prepared to amplify the voices of communities who may feel pressured by the current climate of American divisiveness.
The action taken by the NAACP will likely be carefully followed by corporate America, particularly at a time when supporting the divisive climate could be very damaging in terms of public relations, brand image and overall profits.