Just two months after the NAACP lifted its travel advisory against American Airlines, the company found itself apologizing to a celebrity for an alleged racist incident.
The airline offered an apology and explanation to Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, the D.C.-based artist who goes by the name Wale, for his complaint that two flight attendants questioned his first-class tickets, Fox News reported on Thursday.
“We just want to apologize to Wale for what really occurred here. We understand his frustration. …He’s a good customer of ours. He flies with us regularly. We really just want to apologize profusely,” an American Airlines spokesperson said.
American Airlines has been a major offender when it comes to flying while Black incidents. African-American passengers have complained over the years about the airline’s employees, revealing a pattern of racist disrespect. It prompted the NAACP to issue a travel advisory in 2017 that cautioned Black folks about traveling on American Airlines flights.
Wale’s incident occurred Sept. 16, on a flight from New York to Los Angeles. Initially, he was tweeting about a long flight delay. Later, he tweeted that two employees questioned his place in the first-class cabin, sharing a photo of his ticket that showed his seat assignment.
Having a first-class ticket in hand, however, didn’t stop the flight attendants from insisting that Wale didn’t belong there.
American Airlines offered a flimsy excuse, blaming the problem on a system error that failed to register Wale’s seat assignment.
Passengers had to get off the plane to correct a maintenance issue, and many passengers sat in the wrong seats when they re-boarded the aircraft. The flight attendants “were just trying to figure out why he wasn’t listed on the flight in the first place. His seat was inadvertently dropped in the system when they boarded back.”
After working with the company on diversity issues, the NAACP lifted its travel advisory in July, noting that American Airlines had made improvements. Is it time to rethink that assessment?