Passengers File Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Against American Airlines

Passengers File Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Against American Airlines
© Angel Di Bilio/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus American Airlines jets at Los Angeles International Airport
By Jessica Zickefoose, TravelPulse

While racial tensions are high in the U.S. and other parts of the world, we shouldn’t stand quiet when we see wrongdoing. Recently, four passengers on board an American Airlines flight seem to have had the same beliefs when they saw a black man being discriminated against.

Elgin Banks, a black man from Arizona, was on a May 31 American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix when he was allegedly racially discriminated against while trying to change his seat. Banks, along with four other passengers that witnessed the incident, have filed a joint racial discrimination lawsuit against the airline.

The suit states that Banks “politely requested if the flight was full and if he could change seats if open seats were available.” In response, Banks was told he could move to a different seat after the boarding process was completed.

After boarding was complete, several white passengers were allowed to switch seats. When Banks flagged down a white flight attendant asking to sit closer to the front of the plane, the flight attendant allegedly went into defensive mode.

"The flight attendant replied, 'Sir, step back,' in an aggressive and rudely intimidating tone," the suit reads. "Elgin replied, 'okay ma'am, all I was asking is if I could get a seat closer to the front.'"

Banks was then told to sit back down in his seat but was soon approached by security who told him to grab his belongings and leave the plane. Part of the incident was caught on video, according to KTLA.

In a phone interview with NBC News, attorney Theida Salazar said "It was the passengers around him that implored him, 'Sir, you didn't do anything wrong. You shouldn't be getting ejected from the flight.'"

The passengers that came to the defense of Banks were escorted off the aircraft as well.

Salazar stated that Americans later banned all passengers from the airline.

A spokesperson for American Airlines said the allegations "are not a full or accurate portrayal of the incident."

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