In a statement released Thursday, activist Tamika Mallory said she spoke with a second representative in the customer care department of American Airlines this week, who asked her to recount her experience when she was kicked off of a flight on Sunday over a seating dispute.
The airline said that the matter was under investigation and acknowledged that the company mishandled the seating situation, but equivocated as to the pilot’s conduct. However, she said she still has several concerns.
“First, the representative who reached out to me was not part of the airline’s senior management,” Mallory said in statement. “Second, while the representative apologized for the handling of the situation, she was not completely informed about my experience in its totality — she was unaware of my colleague Mysonne Linen’s experience on the plane, or of the white male who interjected on my behalf but was not removed.”
She added that she was informed by representative that all the information she relayed to him would be forwarded to his superiors and it was no.
“I was able to glean from this conversation that the representative either did not want to — or did not know – American Airlines’ training policies, and protocol as to the removal of customers from the plane when there is no safety issue. While everyone has acknowledged that the ticket agent handled the matter inappropriately, what is American Airlines’ policy as to a pilot’s interaction with customers,” Mallory said.
Mallory believes she was the victim of white male aggression during an incident that made headlines on an American Airlines flight.
She was kicked off an American Airlines flight from Miami to New York over a dispute involving a seat on the plane. The white male pilot who spoke to her ejected her from the plane and Mallory believes her race played a role in her treatment. “This one part of white male aggression that we as women of color have been dealing with since the Women’s March,” she said in an interview. “We began to receive threats and [be] approached at our march with men carrying guns. Trump got elected and people have literally taken their sheets off.”
During a news conference this week Mallory was joined by her attorney and supporters, including NAACP New York State Conference President Hazel Dukes, activists Kirsten Foy and Erica Ford, Mysonne, Council Member Jumaane Williams, State Sen. Brian Benjamin and Assemblyman Michael Blake.
“Why did this happen to be?” she asked during the news conference. “As a spiritual person I understand that this happened to me because other people need to have their voices heard. As an organizer when something like this happens, at least people will hear my voice.”
She went on to say that she wanted to make sure there were policies instituted within American Airlines that ensure that what happened to her doesn’t happen to someone else.
Known for her work in activism and as co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, Mallory said in a 30-minute Facebook Live video that she requested a seat change from a middle seat to an aisle seat at an airport kiosk. However, when she arrived to the gate she was given her original middle seat and explained to the gate agent that she changed her seat.
The pilot overheard the conversation and questioned Mallory about whether or not she would be a “a problem on this flight.” After taking her seat, Mallory said she heard her name called over the announcement system and had to go to the front of the aircraft. She said she was then removed from the plane. “I began to express my outrage,” Mallory said in one report. “Then I asked why I was being removed. I asked why was this happening to me. I told him I felt completely disrespected. I began to weep.” Mallory added that she was given no explanation as to why she was removed from the plane. “Doesn’t matter how much we do and how hard we fight, white men are allowed to treat Black women like (expletive),” she said. American Airlines said in a statement that they are looking into what happened. “We take these allegations seriously, and we have spoken to all involved, including Ms. Mallory,” they said. “Due to an error with a seat change request, Ms. Mallory was informed her requested seat was not available and she was given her original, pre-reserved seat. Our team members apologized for the error and attempted to deescalate the situation. Ms. Mallory was rebooked on the next flight to New York’s LaGuardia airport.”
Mallory’s account of what happened to her Sunday when she was booted off the flight has gone viral, getting hundreds of thousands of views. The incident has put the issue of “flying while Black” into the forefront as Mallory claims that her race played a role in why America Airlines mistreated her. “In the last 24 hours since it happened, I’ve seen story after story about how other airlines have been mistreating people of color,” she said in an interview Monday. “We need to go from airlines apologizing and giving drink and food vouchers to airlines making policy changes.”
Mallory’s experience is one that appears to be commonplace for frequent Black travelers who say airline employees mistreated them on various airlines. This week, another Black woman and her 4-month-old baby were kicked off an American Airlines flight in Atlanta. Reports indicate that Brianna Williams asked for her stroller back during a delay. The Harvard Law Student refused to move without the stroller and the pilot was called, leading to her being kicked off the plane. Witnesses reportedly said that Williams was calm during the exchange and the pilot was aggressive.
Earlier this year American Airlines was accused of racial targeting by political strategist and former Sen. Bernie Sanders press secretary Symone Sanders. She claimed the airline called the police on her over an incident about luggage.
“American Airlines [sic]officials literally called the police to come to the gate check area because the customer service officials were threatened,” she said on Twitter back in May.
Poet and activist Imani Cezanne said she was forcibly removed from an American Airlines flight in Atlanta in March. In a series of tweets, Cezanne said she questioned a flight attendant after a couple was moved in an exit row for not being able to speak English.
“While speaking with the woman next to me about my concerns was interrupted by FA [flight attendant] and asked, ‘Are you going to be a problem?’” she said.
Civil rights activist and North Carolina NAACP President the Rev. Williams Barber was also a victim of “flying while Black” in 2016 when he was kicked off an American Airlines flight. Barber said he complained about two white men sitting in front of him who appeared to be intoxicated. Barber said that he informed a flight attendant about the men’s behavior and they cursed and berated him.
He was later ordered off the plane after police officers asked the two white men what happened and they complained about Barber.
“To be born two days after the March on Washington and still have to deal with this kind of racism and discrimination, it’s troubling,” he said.