American Airlines Faces Lawsuit After Removing 8 Black Men From Flight

Three Black men allege “blatant and egregious race discrimination” by American Airlines when they were removed from a flight.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday, the three plaintiffs — Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph and Xavier Veal — say that they and five other Black male passengers were removed from an American Airlines flight from Phoenix to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in January “without any valid reason, based solely on their race.”

The eight men did not know each other and were not seated together on the flight.

An American Airlines representative approached each of the men before takeoff, the complaint said, ordering them off the plane. The passengers complied.

“(O)nce they reached the jet bridge, they saw that several other Black men were also being removed from the plane. In fact, it appeared to Plaintiffs that American had ordered all of the Black male passengers on Flight 832 off the plane,” the complaint reads.

American representatives told the men a complaint about body odor had prompted their removal, according to the suit. None of the plaintiffs were told that they personally had body odor, “and in fact none of the Plaintiffs had offensive body odor,” it says.

At least one American representative agreed with the plaintiffs when they suggested that they had been singled out because they were Black, the suit alleges.

“We’re the only ones getting taken off the plane”

Cell phone footage taken by some of the men and shared by the Public Citizen Litigation Group representing the plaintiffs shows a chaotic scene as they question the airline’s actions and records one man saying, “So this is discrimination.”

“I agree, I agree,” says a woman wearing a badge who appears to be an airline employee.

“We’re the only ones getting taken off the plane,” says one man, panning across the group. “Look at us.”

At the gate, the men were told that a White male flight attendant had made the body odor complaint, the suit says.

The men were eventually allowed back on after about an hour after the airline determined there were no available flights that evening.

“Plaintiffs then had to reboard the plane and endure the stares of the largely white passengers who viewed them as the cause of the substantial delay. They suffered during the entire flight home, and the entire incident was traumatic, upsetting, scary, humiliating, and degrading,” the complaint reads.