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Jackson v. American Airlines

In January 2024, American Airlines forced eight Black men to deboard a flight from Phoenix to New York, following a white flight attendant’s complaint that an unidentified passenger had body odor. Public Citizen represents three of those men in a lawsuit alleging a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, which prohibits discrimination in the performance of contracts.

Our clients, Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph, and Xavier Veal, were not seated together and had never spoken to each other before the flight. Before takeoff, an American Airlines representative approached our clients one by one, skipping over rows of other passengers, and ordered them off the plane without explanation. Five other Black male passengers were also removed from the plane. When our clients demanded an explanation, an American Airlines representative told them that they were removed from the flight because a white male flight attendant had complained about an unidentified passenger’s body odor. None of our clients had an issue with body odor. And when our clients pointed out that it looked like they were being targeted because of their race, an American Airlines representative responded, “I agree.” Eventually, the airline permitted all eight men to re-board the plane. Our clients did so, despite misgivings, because they all needed to get home that evening. As they re-boarded, they were eyed with suspicion by the predominantly white passengers who remained on board. The men felt degraded and humiliated.

On May 29, 2024, co-counseling with the firm Outten & Golden LLP, we filed suit on behalf of the three men in the federal court in the Eastern District of New York.