An African American man is suing American Airlines, alleging ‘blatant racial discrimination’ after he was removed from a flight at Miami International Airport in February 2021 following an altercation with a flight attendant.
Troskie Stewart, 43, who describes himself as an American citizen of African descent, was hoping to fly from Miami to Atlanta Hartsfield with his friend when AA demanded he deboard the plane because a flight attendant no longer wanted him onboard.
The lawsuit, which was filed late last week in the Florida Northern District Court, claims American Airlines engaged in “intentional discrimination” based on Stewart’s perceived race, color, or national origin when he was removed from the flight.
Stewart says he has been “deeply affected” by the incident and alleges that what happened to him wasn’t an isolated incident. In fact, the lawsuit alleges the carrier “continued a custom or policy of permitting airline personnel to exercise unfettered discretion to remove passengers from flights based upon their race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, or national origin”.
Having arrived at Miami Airport in good time for their evening flight to Atlanta, Stewart says he and his friend passed through a TSA checkpoint without incident and boarded the plane on time. Once onboard, Stewart started to stow his hand luggage in an overhead bin but was reprimanded by one flight attendant.
According to the lawsuit, the flight attendant demanded Stewart get out of the aisle and sit down despite being able to see that he simply putting his bag in the overhead bin. Stewart says he complied with the demand but then had to stand up a short time later to let a seatmate reach their seat.
At this point, the same flight attendant allegedly demanded Stewart take his seat or risk being removed from the plane. Stewart says he felt humiliated but again complied to avoid a confrontation.
Unfortunately for Stewart, a second passenger sitting in the same row arrived, requiring him to stand in the aisle to let the passenger access their seat. As the passenger was taking her seat, the contents of her bag fell on the floor, and Stewart went to help pick up her belongings.
Yet again, the same flight attendant allegedly reprimanded Stewart for blocking the aisle and threatened to call the Captain. When other passengers intervened and spoke up in Stewart’s defense, the flight attendant said in front of a supervisor: “You are only talking up for him because you look like him, you are probably his relative”.
An American Airlines supervisor was called and escorted Stewart off the plane, while the flight attendant was left to work the flight. Stewart says this shows the flight attendant’s discriminatory words and actions “were supported and encouraged by American Airlines”.
The lawsuit claims Stewart was made to feel “like a second-class citizen who could be humiliated and embarrassed simply to accommodate the prejudices of [American Airlines’] employee whose feelings and concerns were given a privileged status”.
In 2017, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued an advisory warning African Americans not to fly with AA because of a “corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias” against African-American at the airline.
The advisory warned of a “pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines” and claimed African Americans could face “disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions” when travelling with the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline.
The civil rights group lifted the advisory in July 2018, saying AA had made “substantial” progress in addressing the concerns it had raised. American Airlines has introduced a number of improvements, including implicit bias training.
In September 2020, the carrier said it would permit flight attendants to wear Black Lives Matter pins on their uniforms.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.