Five strangers are suing American Airlines over the removal of an African-American passenger on a recent flight.
According to the court documents, Elgin Banks was seated on a plane departing Los Angeles for Phoenix on May 31st when he asked a flight attendant if he could change seats. Banks claims the stewardess told him he might be able to switch once boarding completed. But as boarding did conclude, several white passengers changed seats while Banks patiently waited for a reassignment. After asking the flight attendant again if he could change seats, he says he was told to remain where he was and to “lower his voice.”
Other Passengers Outraged
Banks decried his mistreatment and consequently was removed from the aircraft by security. And after objecting to his removal, four other passengers, three Black women, and one White woman, were also escorted off the plane.
The flight attendant claims Banks wanted to be reseated in first class, a notion referred to as a “perjurious lie” in the lawsuit. Two passengers seated near the conflict however have gone on record denying Banks ever raised his voice. They along with two other witnesses are also suing American Airlines for racial discrimination after the unnecessary drama led to the entire flight being canceled.
One of the Black plaintiffs, Cynthia Vassor, notes that a security guard told her after leaving the flight, “Why would you want to fly with an airline that doesn’t want you on their plane?” They also noted that none of the Black plaintiffs removed from the flight were offered hotel vouchers for the night, but the white passenger was comped a room. All five passengers however were told they were banned for life from flying American Airlines.
American Airlines Defends Itself
AA has since released this statement:
“The disruption on board required deplaning passengers. Discrimination of any kind is not acceptable and does not align with our values, which is why we launched an investigation when we were made aware of the allegations. We are continuing to review this incident, but we believe that the allegations are not a full or accurate portrayal of the incident. All affected customers were provided with a hotel voucher unless they lived locally, as is our policy.”
So was ethnicity a factor in the flight attendant’s handling of Banks’ seat change request? Maybe not. Or considering this airline’s troubled history with African-Americans, maybe.
A History Of Racism?
In 2017, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for Black passengers, stating, “booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them [to] disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”
Banks incident sounds par for the course.
Eric has revolved in and out of passport controls for over 20 years. From his first archaeological field school in Belize to rural villages in Ethiopia and Buddhist temples in Laos, Eric has come smile to smile with all walks of life. A writer, photographer and entrepreneur, the LA native believes the power of connectivity and community is enriched through travel.