A well-established and ‘prominent’ businessman who works in the entertainment industry in Las Vegas has accused American Airlines of racial discrimination and civil rights abuses following a flight to Washington DC in May 2021.
Kenneth Crear, who is African American, filed a lawsuit against American Airlines earlier this week demanding at least $1.25 million in compensation and punitive damages for the way he was selectively treated by a flight attendant compared to a white passenger who was sitting across the aisle from him.
The incident occurred a few months after the first federal airplane face mask mandate was issued by the CDC and came at a time that many U.S. carriers, including American Airlines, took a zero-tolerance approach to passengers who failed to mask up.
Despite both AA’s own masking policy and the federal mask mandate being in place, Crear claims a white flight attendant allowed the caucasian passenger sat across from him to go maskless for most of the flight while he was quickly admonished if his own mask fell below his nose.
Things came to a head when the flight attendant refused to serve Crear due to his alleged mask violations and then called security to meet the aircraft when he challenged the flight attendant over why other passengers weren’t being required to mask up.
Crear says that as he boarded the flight on May 7, 2021, he initially had a pleasant conversation with the flight attendant as he settled into his seat in First Class, although she soon asked Crear to lift his mask above the tip of his nose – a request, he says, he complied with immediately.
The flight attendant issued a similar warning to Crear later in the flight and then fully admonished him when she noticed that he had temporarily lowered his mask to drink a beverage he had just been served.
The same flight attendant then went to serve the white maskless passenger across the aisle but allegedly had no issue with him being unmasked.
“Crear, observing the clear double standard at hand, stated that her tone and rudeness were inappropriate,” the lawsuit, which was filed in a DC district court on Friday, explains. “She replied she would no longer serve him drinks and abruptly snatched the drink from his hands”.
Crear attempted to plead his case to the flight attendant and asked her why she had “chastised” him while ignoring the “blatant violation” of the mask mandate across the aisle. She allegedly responded in a “louder, rude, and condescending manner”.
Upon landing, an American Airlines supervisor boarded the flight and asked Crear to wait behind while additional managers were called to the plane. Crear was left waiting, ‘effectively detained’ for nearly half an hour before he had an opportunity to show the supervisor video evidence he had taken of the other passenger sitting maskless.
After seeing the video evidence, Crear was released, but he is now seeking compensation for what he claims are “double standards” based on race.
Back in 2017, American Airlines was the subject of a travel advisory issued by the civil rights group NAACP warning African Americans to “exercise caution” when booking tickets with American Airlines or boarding one of its planes.
The NAACP was concerned that implicit racial bias had become a major problem at American Airlines and only lifted the advisory nine months later when the airline agreed to implement a slew of measures to tackle the issue.
In 2020, American Airlines allowed flight attendants and other employees 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.