American Airlines CEO wants to ‘rebuild trust’ after black men removed from flight: NPR

Here, Isom speaks at a press conference in Seattle on Thursday, February 13, 2020, about the company's new partnership with Alaska Airlines.

In light of several recent incidents involving alleged racial discrimination against its passengers, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom says he is taking immediate action to restore trust within the company. Here, Isom speaks at a press conference in Seattle on February 13, 2020 about the company’s new partnership with Alaska Airlines.

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Elaine Thompson/AP

In light of several recent incidents involving alleged racial discrimination against its passengers, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom says he is taking immediate action to restore trust within the company.

In a letter to employees obtained by NPR, Isom wrote that he wanted to address an “unacceptable incident” in which eight black male passengers were removed and later reboarded from a U.S. flight in January. He says the unfortunate incident that occurred is “contrary” to the airline’s values ​​and what it stands for.

“I am incredibly disappointed by what happened on that flight and by the failure of our procedures,” Isom wrote. “We have not kept our promises and let our customers down in this incident.”

Last month, as NPR reported, three black men came forward and filed a federal lawsuit against American Airlines, claiming they were victims of “blatant and egregious racial discrimination” after they were removed from a Jan. 5 flight from Phoenix to John F. Kennedy International Airport. The three plaintiffs – Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph and Xavier Veal – say they and five other black male passengers were removed from the flight “without any justifiable reason, based solely on their race.”

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

Isom’s letter outlines a series of steps the airline will take to “strengthen diversity and inclusion within the company.” The steps include:

  • Creating an advisory group that will focus on improving the travel experience for Black customers,
  • Reviewing and improving the company’s internal reporting process for cases involving allegations of discrimination or bias,
  • Reevaluating its policies, practices, protocols and organizational culture to recognize and identify areas for growth and improvement,
  • And training its employees to “recognize and address bias and discrimination.”

Additionally, Isom wrote in his letter that he spoke with Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, about the civil rights organization’s concerns amid the latest lawsuit against the airline. Isom thanked Johnson for sharing his concerns and views, adding that discrimination of any kind is “unacceptable” and will not be tolerated within the company.

In a statement to NPR, Johnson said he is pleased to see that American has taken the first steps to “pave a path toward a more inclusive experience for all.”

“While it is unfortunately common for black consumers to experience racism and discrimination at the hands of companies, it is not common to see such swift and decisive action,” Johnson said, adding that he hopes this approach will serve as a model for other countries. companies that may find themselves in similar situations.

American Airlines did not respond to NPR’s request for comment on the letter or whether or not the employees involved in the incident would be fired. Representatives for Jackson, Joseph and Veal also did not respond to NPR’s request for comment.

Concerns about cases of racial discrimination have followed American Airlines for several years, leading the NAACP to issue an advisory in 2017 for Black travelers to be cautious about flying with the airline.

The airline’s then-chairman, Doug Parker, responded by saying the company “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind”, leading to the advisory being withdrawn in 2018.

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