The NAACP has issued an advisory statement telling African-Americans about traveling on American Airlines. Josh King has the story (@abridgetoland).
Recent incidents involving alleged discrimination against black people, including the removal of African-American passengers from American Airlines flights, risk alienating a powerful group of customers with growing economic clout.
“You don’t want to alienate any market segment but you certainly don’t want to alienate any market that’s growing faster” than the overall population, says Jeff Humphreys, director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.
The NAACP issued a travel warning Tuesday for African American travelers to exercise caution when flying on American Airlines after noticing a pattern of “disturbing incidents” involving the removal of black passengers from flights, as well as other troublesome conduct. The organization says it’s been getting more complaints about American than other carriers.
“We decided as an organization to make our voice heard in a way in which African American consumers could be advised of what the potentials are as related to American Airlines,’’ Derrick Johnson, the new president and CEO of the NAACP, told USA TODAY.
The episodes are the latest in a series of discriminatory practices by airlines and other U.S. businesses. In August, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for the state of Missouri urging black residents and visitors to “exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the state.” It cited “numerous racist incidents,” adding that blacks are 75% more likely to be stopped and searched by police than whites, according to the state attorney general.
The state’s convention and visitors commission said the advisory hurt local hotels.
“We have been notified by a number of area hotels that they have lost meeting groups that were in contract phase,” Kathleen Ratcliffe, president of Explore St. Louis, said in a statement at the time.
Similar responses could jeopardize a potent and fast-growing market for U.S. businesses. Since 2012, spending by black consumers has increased 32.5% to $1.3 trillion, compared with 27.2% by white Americans, according to the Selig Center. African-American spending now makes up 8.7% of the U.S. total
Blacks’ outlays are expected to continue to outpace the population overall, growing 21.1% to $1.5 trillion by 2022, vs. a 19.6% increase for all US households, Selig figures show.
The NAACP said the incidents that prompted its latest advisory “suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines.” NAACP officials said they decided to issue the advisory after receiving a number of complaints over the past year from passengers as well as some American Airline employees who witnessed what they call discriminatory practices or actions.
One of the four incidents cited in the NAACP’s statement involved an African-American passenger who was required to give up his purchased seat aboard a flight from Washington, D.C. to Raleigh because he responded to “disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers.”
Another episode involved an African-American woman who was switched to the coach section at the ticket counter despite having previously booked first-class tickets for herself and a traveling companion. The woman’s traveling companion, who was white, remained assigned to a first-class seat, according to NAACP’s claims.
NAACP: American subject of most complaints
NAACP officials said while there have been complaints about other airlines, most over the past year have been about problems on American Airlines. Since the advisory has been issued, NAACP officials said they have heard from more people of color about incidents with American.
“We started getting phone calls from flight attendants validating these and problems and how American Airlines does business in the air,’’ said Hilary Shelton, the head of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau.
The increasing economic power of the black community can partly be traced to faster population growth. From 2000 to 2014, the black population grew 35% more rapidly than the total population and more than double the rate of whites, according to Nielsen.
But blacks also represent an increasingly coveted audience. Last year, 23% had college degrees, up from 17% in 2000 and 11% in 1990, Selig says. And black business formation grew 34% from 2007 to 2012, compared to 3% for the population overall.
The number of black households with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 increased 18% from 2004 to 2014, vs. a 2% rise for the U.S. overall, according to Nielsen. And 55% of black Millennials spend one or more hours on social media daily, compared to 49% of all Millennials, Nielsen says.
“They are leveraging these virtual town halls to galvanize fellow citizen consumers around political movements and social causes, as well as using them to promote or protest content and products,” says Andrew McCaskill, Nielsen’s senior vice president.
“Brands ignore the economic power and cultural influence of African Americans and all multicultural audiences at their own peril,” he said.
American Airlines said it plans to invite representatives from the NAACP to meet with airline officials at their headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.
“We are disappointed to hear about this travel advisory as our team members – a diverse community of gate agents, pilots, and flight attendants – are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds,” American Airlines said in a statement. “Every day American is committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us.”
African Americans have had a long history of facing discrimination in public accommodations, particularly during the Jim Crow era. Shelton said the incidents – and the NAACP warnings — conjure up memories of the Green Book, a guidebook used by African American travelers to find businesses where they were welcomed.
Other incidents on Delta, United
There have been numerous incidents involving alleged poor treatment of passengers of other races and ethnicities and on other carriers. David Dao suffered broken teeth and a concussion when he was dragged off a United flight in Chicago in April and received a confidential settlement with the airline. Conservative author Ann Coulter complained in July about Delta giving away her seat on a flight.
But there have been numerous incidents involving black people. Late last year, a female African-American doctor who offered to help an ill passenger on a Delta Air Lines flight from Detroit to Houston was rebuffed by a flight attendant who didn’t believe she was a physician. Delta subsequently said it will no longer require flight attendants to verify medical credentials.
In July, the rap trio Migos was removed from a Delta flight, hours before a concert, because the bag of one of its members, Takeoff, was on the floor instead of in the overhead storage. The group’s manager told TMZ Takeoff didn’t follow instructions because he was sleeping.
Contributing: Bart Jansen; Rachel Brown, WNCN-TV, Charlotte, NC; USA TODAY Network
The search for missing flight MH370 will continue, the Malaysian government has announced, after it reached a deal with a private firm
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2zDjiS7