The NAACP, or National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is an American civil rights organisation that yesterday issued what they described as a travel advisory, warning against travel with American Airlines.
Their full press release can be read here. They say:
The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines. In light of these confrontations, we have today taken the action of issuing national advisory alerting travelers—especially African Americans—to exercise caution, in that booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.
On the face of it, that’s quite extraordinary; that a global airline such as American is discriminating against black people. They go on to list four incidents that they claim shows a pattern of behaviour on behalf of the firm.
Clearly four incidents are four incidents too many, but American transported over 50 million people last year so it appears that you have a one in 12.5 million chance of being subject to an incident of this nature flying with American. I think I’ll buy a lottery ticket this evening!
However, that said, I was quite surprised by the tone of the corporate response from American Airlines, which I’ve linked to here.
Doug Parker, their CEO, claims to be “disappointed” and will meet with the leadership of the NAACP to discuss the matter. There was no promise of an investigation to look into these claims.
To American’s credit, they have done much to engage with the LGBT community in particular. For example, they were one of the many airlines to support pride month, even changing their logo on Twitter to that of the rainbow flag.
However, unconscious bias is one of those areas that could well be an issue. I would have hoped that American would have responded with the work that they’re doing internally in that area, and around diversity and inclusion in general.
On the face of it, the limited evidence that the NAACP presents doesn’t leave me convinced that American warrants being avoided. But the response from the CEO seems lacklustre as well. Hopefully this will facilitate a dialogue and that can only be a good thing for all parties.