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American Airlines Must Compensate Victim of Racial Profiling

Jan. 12, 2007

American Airlines Must Compensate Victim of Racial Profiling

Statement of Michael Kirkpatrick, Attorney, Public Citizen

A Boston jury today ruled in favor of an airline passenger who had been removed from an American Airlines (AA) flight in a case that amounted to racial profiling. The jury awarded $400,000 total, including compensatory and punitive damages, to our client, John Cerqueira.*  

Mr. Cerqueira, who is of Portuguese descent and has lived in the United States since he was six years old, was returning home to South Florida in 2003 after visiting his family in Massachusetts for the holidays. He was taken off a flight after the airline discriminated against him because it mistakenly believed that he was of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent.

After he was questioned and cleared by the Massachusetts State Police – and despite being a frequent flier with American Airlines – AA still refused to book him on another flight home and would not provide an adequate explanation for its decision.

This experience left Cerqueira, a Stanford graduate and self-employed computer consultant, frightened to fly and unable to continue traveling for his work.

The jury’s verdict is a powerful vindication of our client’s basic civil rights. This decision will send a clear message that companies cannot trample the rights of consumers by invoking a vague reference to security.

For more information about the case, click here.

* John Cerqueira was represented by Michael Kirkpatrick of Public Citizen and David Godkin and Darleen Cantelo of Birnbaum & Godkin in Boston.