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3 Black men sue American Airlines alleging racial discrimination after being kicked-off flight

American Airlines Boeing 777-223(ER) aircraft is airborne as it departs Los Angeles International Airport. Los Angeles^ California USA

Three Black men are suing American Airlines after alleging employees from the company removed them, as well as five other Black men, from a flight in January due to a complaint about a passenger with “offensive body odor.”

The three men — Emmanuel Jean Joseph, Alvin Jackson and Xavier Jones — were flying separately and did not know one another, and were on a connecting flight from Los Angeles..  The plaintiffs said in their complaint, filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, that as American Airlines Flight 832 from Phoenix to New York was boarding in January, employees removed eight Black men from the plane. The three allege that at no point throughout the other flight did any employee from American Airlines say anything to them about an offensive odor, and according to their lawsuit, they were the only Black passengers on the flight.

Video central to the lawsuit displayed the group of Black men being removed from the flight, with Jean Joseph telling CBS News that as he gathered his belongings and walked to the jet bridge, he noticed that only Black men were being removed from the flight and decided to record the incident on his phone. The lawsuit claims that the men were held in the jetway for about an hour and then moved to the gate area where they were told they would be rebooked on another flight to New York later that day. A gate agent seen in the video at one point seemed to agree that race was a factor in the decision to remove the men from the flight. According to the lawsuit, an American Airlines employee indicated that the complaint about body odor came from a “white male flight attendant.”

Sue Huhta, attorney for the plaintiffs, said that American Airlines declined to provide her clients any answers about the incident and said it seems “fairly apparent that race was part of this dynamic …It’s almost inconceivable to come up with an explanation for that other than the color of their skin, particularly since they didn’t know each other and weren’t sitting near each other.”

American Airlines said in a statement to CBS News: “we take all claims of discrimination very seriously and want our customers to have a positive experience when they choose to fly with us. Our teams are currently investigating the matter, as the claims do not reflect our core values or our purpose of caring for people.”

Editorial credit: Philip Pilosian / Shutterstock.com

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