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NAACP lifts American Airlines travel advisory that warned of discrimination against black passengers

In this June 16, 2018  photo, American Airlines aircrafts are seen at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Grapevine, Texas. (Kiichiro Sato / Associated Press)
In this June 16, 2018 photo, American Airlines aircrafts are seen at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Grapevine, Texas. (Kiichiro Sato / Associated Press)
By Conor Shine Dallas Morning News

DALLAS – The NAACP announced Tuesday it is lifting a travel advisory warning black passengers against traveling with American Airlines that was put in place last year following a string of incidents the civil rights organizations said showed a pattern of bias and discrimination.

The group’s president and CEO Derrick Johnson said he’s pleased with the outcomes working with American has produced so far, and although there’s still more to be done, American deserves credit for its efforts.

“(American CEO) Doug Parker and his team, everything they said they would initiate and or do, they have done,” Johnson told a gathering at the NAACP’s convention in San Antonio Tuesday morning. “We’re doing this because we have engaged in ongoing dialogues and we see a substantive plan that will be embedded in the culture of the organization and one we can measure over time.”

Parker joined Johnson at the convention and said the airline’s first instinct to the travel advisory was to circle the wagons. But during a meeting the day after the advisory, Parker said a board member urged the company to view it as an opportunity, noting “No one in corporate America is good at this, we shouldn’t pretend that we are.”

“While we’re proud of our people and our inclusion and diversity efforts. We took this as a challenge, as an opportunity, as a gift,” Parker said Tuesday. “We are not done, not anything close to it, and indeed we will never be done. We know this.”

The October advisory warned travelers, “especially African-Americans,” to exercise caution and that booking with American Airlines could subject them to “disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”

It was put in place a week after activist Tamika Mallory – who co-chaired the 2017 Women’s March on Washington – was removed from an American flight following a dispute with a gate agent over a seat issue. It was one of several incidents involving black passengers the NAACP said it was alerted to over the course of the year.

In a video posted online following the incident, Mallory said she was targeted by a white pilot as she walked down the jet bridge to board the flight who asked if she could “control (herself)” and later ordered her removed from the flight after she took her seat.

“It definitely was white male aggression. I was singled out, I was disrespected, and he was trying to intimidate me. I was discriminated against,” Mallory told the New York Daily News last year.

American quickly held a meeting between its top executives and leaders from the NAACP before announcing a series of changes meant to address discrimination and bias by its employees.

Since then, American has put a number of initiatives in place, including ongoing company-wide implicit bias training and an outside review of its inclusion and diversity practices.

The carrier has also created a dedicated customer relations team for handling discrimination-related complaints and implemented a policy that calls for direct outreach to customers who file discrimination complaints from that team.

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