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The Travel Industry’s Reckoning With Race and Inclusion

Tourists, particularly Black travelers, are paying close attention to how destinations and travel service providers approach diversity and equity after a year of social justice protests.

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By Tariro Mzezewa

Between the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought tourism to a near-complete halt for months on end, and last summer’s protests for social justice, the past year has been one of reckoning for the travel industry on issues of race and inclusivity.

In the wake of George Floyd’s killing, everybody from hotel operators to luggage makers declared themselves allies of the protesters. At a time when few people were traveling, Instagram posts and pledges to diversify were easy to make. But now, as travel once again picks up, the question of how much travel has really changed has taken on new urgency.

“From the very emergence of the Covid pandemic and especially in the wake of uprisings last summer, there’s a question about place,” said Paul Farber, the director of Monument Lab , a Pennsylvania-based public art and history studio that works with cities and states that want to examine, remove or add historic monuments. “What is the relationship of people and places? Where are sites of belonging? Where are sites where historic injustices may be physically or socially marked?”

Monument Lab is one of several organizations, groups and individuals trying to change the way travelers of all colors understand America’s racially fraught history. Urging people to engage with history beyond museums and presentations from preservation societies is one approach.

In turn, many travelers are paying close attention to whether companies are following through with their promises from last year. Black travelers, in particular, are doubling down on supporting Black-owned businesses. A survey released earlier this year by the consulting firm MMGY Global found that Black travelers, particularly those in the United States, Canada, Britain and Ireland, are keenly interested in how destinations and travel service providers approach diversity and have indicated that it has an influence on their travel decision-making.

At Monument Lab, questions about belonging, inclusion and how history memorializes different people were coming up frequently over the past year, Dr. Farber said, particularly from travelers looking to learn about Confederate and other monuments while road tripping.

In response, Monument Lab, which examines the meaning of monuments, created an activity guide called Field Trip , which allows people to pause on their trips to learn about specific monuments. On a worksheet, participants are prompted to question who created the monuments, why they were made and what they represent.

In creating Field Trip, it became clear to Dr. Farber that there is a strong interest from travelers to learn about Black history. This sentiment is echoed by tour operators who offer Civil Rights and other social-justice-oriented tours like those focusing on the contributions of Black Americans, women and figures in the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

“There are a lot of white people who for the first time have had a conversation about racial justice and maybe even heard the words ‘systemic racism’ for the first time,” said Rebecca Fisher, founder of Beyond the Bell Tours , a Philadelphia-based operator of social-justice-oriented tours that highlight marginalized communities, people and histories. “People heard the new words and now they want to learn. That doesn’t mean that it is backed up with results, but I am seeing a trend in interest.”

On a tour with Beyond the Bell guests might, for example, participants hear about Philadelphia’s President’s House, but they’ll also hear about Ona Judge , an enslaved woman who escaped from George Washington’s home, and about the former president’s efforts to recapture her. One of the company’s most popular tours focuses on gay history in the city.

Seeking Black-owned travel businesses

Black travelers, in particular, are increasingly looking for ways to show their support for Black-owned travel businesses.

Even as the family road trip has made a comeback in the wake of the coronavirus, that sort of trip hasn’t been a source of unfettered freedom for generations of Black motorists because of Jim Crow laws enforcing racial segregation in America. And now, after a year in which protests of the police killings of Black people amplified the perils of skin color, Black travelers are seeking out Black travel agents, Black hoteliers and Black-owned short-term rentals in addition to organizing in groups dedicated to Black travelers.

In fact, according to the international survey of nearly 4,000 Black leisure travelers by MMGY Global, 54 percent of American respondents said they were more likely to visit a destination if they saw Black representation in travel advertising. In Britain and Ireland, 42 percent echoed that sentiment, and in Canada that number was 40 percent.

“Another highly influential factor in the decision-making process is whether the destination is perceived as safe for Black travelers,” the survey noted. “Seventy-one percent of U.S. and Canadian respondents felt safety was extremely or very influential to their decision.”

In Facebook groups, Clubhouse chat rooms and across other social media platforms, Black travelers regularly ask one another for recommendations about where to travel, particularly about where others have been where they felt safe and welcome. While these questions are often about foreign destinations, in a year when Americans could largely only travel within the United States, inquiries increasingly arose about where travelers felt safe within the country.

“I was just curious on some good and safe locations for a first time solo traveler here in the States,” one woman posted in a group specifically for Black women travelers in June.

“Where’s a good ‘safe’ place to travel in the States?” asked another woman who was planning a 35th birthday trip with her sister.

This type of community gathering, though now online, isn’t new. For decades, African American travelers have looked to one another for guidance on where to travel. The most referenced form was Victor Hugo Green’s Green Book , a guide for Black travelers that was published annually from 1936 to 1966.

Last summer, facing an onslaught of messaging from travel companies saying that they supported the Black Lives Matter movement and would be committing to diversifying their ranks and finding other ways to be more inclusive, Kristin Braswell, the owner of CrushGlobal , a company that works with locals around the world to plan trips, decided to make the inclusion of Black businesses central to her work.

As a Black woman with a passion for travel, she started making travel guides that focused on supporting Black businesses. Each guide, whether it be to national parks, beach towns or wine country, provides information on businesses owned by Black people as well as guidance about diversity in the area and more.

“These road trips and initiatives that speak to people of color in general are important because we’ve been left out of travel narratives,” Ms. Braswell said. “If you’re going to be creating experiences where people are going out into the world, all people should be included in those experiences.”

Ms. Braswell added that the bulk of her business comes from Black travelers. These travelers, she said, are looking for Black travel advisers who have the knowledge of places where they are welcomed and can help them plan their trips. Over the past year travelers across racial backgrounds have been increasingly asking for tours and experiences that include Black-owned businesses, she said.

Across the country, as people protested against police brutality, travelers demanded to see more travelers who looked like them in advertising; they spoke out against tourism boards that hadn’t been inclusive in the past and formed organizations like the Black Travel Alliance , calling for more Black travel influencers, writers and photographers to be employed.

The Alliance and others have been pushing for more Black travelers to be visible and included in the industry and in spaces of leisure travel.

Going beyond museums

At the same time, tour providers like Free Egunfemi Bangura, the founder of Untold RVA , a Richmond-based organization, are offering tours that center on the contributions of Black people. In a city such as Richmond, which was once a capital of the Confederacy, she said that means seeing the value of working outside the established system of preservation societies and museums that are typically run by white leadership.

To Ms. Bangura and other activists, artists and tour operators, museums and traditional preservation societies are part of the culture of exclusion that has historically left Black people out and continues to present versions of history that focus on white narratives. Ms. Bangura’s tours take place on the streets of the city as a better way to understand the local history.

At a time when state legislatures are pushing for and passing laws that limit what and how much students learn about the contributions of Black and other marginalized people to the country, Ms. Bangura and others said, tours that show their contributions are even more important.

“There is a way to take these experiences out of the hands of the traditional preservation community, so you don’t have to go into the walls of a museum,” Ms. Bangura said, adding that another reason institutions like museums aren’t optimal is because some people aren’t keen to visit them. “But think of how often it is that after you come outside of a Black-owned coffee shop, you’re actually able to hear about some of the Black people in that neighborhood or people that fought for Black freedom.”

Additionally, although the tourism industry took a hit last year, outdoor activities continued to draw visitors, making outdoor tours like Ms. Bangura’s and Ms. Fisher’s of Beyond the Bell popular. Ms. Bangura said the style of her offerings makes them accessible for all travelers, especially those without access to smartphones for scanning QR codes or those unable to take part in headphone-aided tours.

Among the several kinds of tours and experiences Ms. Bangura has created is Black Monument Avenue, a three-block interactive experience in Richmond’s majority-Black Highland Park neighborhood. Visitors can drive through and call a designated phone line with unique access codes to hear songs, poems and messages about each installation. Every August, she runs Gabriel Week , honoring Gabriel Prosser, an enslaved man who led a rebellion in the Richmond area in 1800.

“I call him brother General Gabriel,” Ms. Bangura said, adding that in her work, she encourages “people to decolonize their history by making sure that history is being told from the language of the oppressed, not the language of the oppressor.”

Walking tours, for those who go on them, also provide a visceral sense of history that differs from the experience of a museum. Even as the National Museum of African American History and Culture has attracted record numbers of visitors to Washington, D.C., tours like Ms. Bangura’s can provide a more local perspective and show visitors exactly where something significant happened.

“We can find community in walking together, we can find community in exploring a neighborhood together, and we can find a sense of where we are, we can find a sense of where folks have been and we can find common ground,” said Kalela Williams, the founder of Black History Maven , a Philadelphia company that primarily offers walking tours of the city that focus on Black history.

“It’s important to see where things were, how things were working in relation to one another,” she said. “You can see the proximity of folks’ houses and schools and churches. You can imagine how folks would have walked around and navigated and visited each other in a way that you might not in a museum.”

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Tariro Mzezewa is a travel reporter at The New York Times.  More about Tariro Mzezewa

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“Black travel is not a monolith,” wrote Dr. Alana Dillette and Dr. Stefanie Benjamin in 2021, referencing the findings of their comprehensive study into Diversity in Travel. As codirectors of Tourism RESET , an initiative dedicated to promoting social equity in the travel and tourism space, Dillette and Benjamin partnered with Evita Robinson , founder of BIPOC travel community Nomadness Travel Tribe , to explore both the immense spending power of Black travelers —and the missed opportunities. “Black travelers are seeking authenticity, not only in their experiences while traveling, but also in the depth of representation across media. .... Destinations, travel brands, and tourism companies need to further explore the intersectionality of what it means to be Black.”

Here at AFAR, we celebrate the myriad stories and voices of Black travelers all year long. Yes, Black History Month begins today, but the legacy can’t be contained to one narrative in one month.

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Black-Owned Travel Companies To Support For National Black Travel Day

Black Travel Summit founder Anita Francois recently announced the official designation of November 11 as National Black Travel Day.

Simone Cherí • Nov 11, 2023

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Social media timelines continue to show that Black travelers are increasingly becoming a well-traveled demographic. However, Black travel professionals understand well how often the community’s value to the industry, both economically and culturally, is overlooked. Aiming to find a unique way to promote the contributions of Black travel professionals and the economic impact of Black travelers on tourism, Black Travel Summit founder Anita Francois recently announced the official designation of November 11 as National Black Travel Day. The auspicious day is an homage to Barrington Irving, the birthday of the first Black person to solo-circumnavigate the globe by plane in 2007.

In the early stages of a new holiday, the question of how to appropriately celebrate the day comes into question. Francois nods to increased visibility for impactful Black travel brands and industry acknowledgment both within and outside of the Black community.

“In an ideal world, I would like to see impactful and up-and-coming Black travel brands and individuals being acknowledged in and outside of our community,” Francois shared with Travel Noire. “Corporations emphasizing their DEI milestones from the year leading up and how they’ve diversified who they employ and partner with; Black travelers booking a trip, ideally with a Black travel advisor.”

Francois also shares that National Black Travel Day is best observed in any way that celebrates the Black travel community. To celebrate the unmatched experiences of Black travel and amplify Black spending power, consider supporting one of these TN-approved Black-owned travel companies.

Black Austin Tours

With the familial wisdom of nearly 200 years in the Austin area, Black Austin Tours founder Javier Wallace is a proud Austinite. Black Austin Tours offers several types of tours throughout the city. Each tour educates visitors on key areas of the city and the origins, contributions, and impact of Austin’s Black community.

From downtown to the Colorado River, Black Austin Tours humanizes the history of Black people’s existence in this region of the US. Wallace is doing the good work of ensuring that the story of his home city is a well-rounded one; one that appropriately holds space for Austin’s Black history.

Black History Walks – London

With sixteen walking tours to choose from, many travelers hail Black History Walks as the best way to learn about the significance of Caribbean and African history in London. Through interactive discussion and educational experiences, this tour company uncovers 3,500 years of Black history.

Founded by Tony Warner in 2007, Black History Walks has since garnered worthy acclaim for its diverse program of walking tours, talks, educational courses, resources, and film events. In addition to its popular walking tours, the company also offers bi-monthly river cruises and bus tours. In addition to his tourism-based work, Warner also served as the first-ever Activist in Residence at a London-based university.

Two Oceans Travel & Tours

people taking group shot on safari truck - Black-owned travel company, Two Oceans Travel

Two Oceans Travel & Tours is a premier tour company known for meticulously curated itineraries and personalized service. Their portfolio of destinations spans continents, although it has a long-running foothold on experiences in Africa.

Their team will craft an experience that immerses you in the landscapes, cultures, and wildlife that Africa boasts. From ancient deserts to vibrant cities, founder Maurice Foley ensures that every traveler discovers the soul-stirring nature of Africa. Whether you want to see the Serengeti or Marrakech, Two Oceans has curated tailored itineraries for more than two decades.

Black Heritage Tour of Amsterdam

Since 2013, founder Jennifer Tosch has amplified the otherwise little-known history of African legacies in Amsterdam. Working with a team of scholars, historians, public officials, businesses, and heritage tourism professionals, Tosch has left an imprint on those who take her tours. Currently exclusively offering private boat tours, the Black Heritage Tour explores hidden history through the canals of the city. Reservations must be confirmed at least two weeks in advance.

Jelani Travel

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For nearly a decade, Jelani Travel has made travel to Africa easy with curated vacations for the culture. Currently operating in 16 countries, Jelani Travel tailors its travel experiences to focus on self-care, service, culture, and adventure. Popular group experiences that often sell out include itineraries in Kenya and Zanzibar, typically held in the summer.

Jelani Travel’s chief curator, Ashley N. Company, has traveled to over 100 countries and loves customizing luxurious and authentic experiences for individuals and groups. The company also works in tandem with the nonprofit organization Jelani Gives to empower the next generation and provide educational and cultural opportunities to Black children.

Commemorating National Black Travel Day without acknowledging the growth in wellness travel would be a major miss. Although not exclusively a travel company, OMNoire has become known as the go-to destination for vetted Black women-owned retreat experiences worldwide.

The visionary behind the brand, Christina M. Rice, expanded beyond her retreat hosting role to make space for and support other Black women facilitators. OMNoire’s list of upcoming retreat experiences includes destinations such as Portugal, Negril, Costa Rica, and Barbados.

Nomadness Travel Tribe

This travel lifestyle brand and community for Black and Brown nomads is more than 35,000 members strong on Facebook alone. With the sole pre-requisite of at least one passport stamp, founder Evita Robinson has simplified finding your people globally. Robinson also recently concluded the fourth installment of Nomadness Fest , a multi-day festival for travelers of color and allies to connect, learn, and share resources.

Experienced globetrotters looking for Tribe in various destinations know it’s fairly easy to do as a Nomadness community member. Whether you’re in Bali or Merida, Mexico, there are likely other Tribe members nearby, on the way, or with lasting connections they’re happy to share. No matter where you are in the world, there’s likely a Nomadness connection worth exploring.

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5 Amazing Black-owned Travel Companies to Know and Support

“Travel has changed my life. And just when I think it can’t get any better, it does.”

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The second time Zim Flores ever traveled internationally, it was an across-the-world move to India . Landing a fellowship post-college in the South Asian country, the then-20-something sold everything she owned and made the life-changing leap. But what she discovered when she arrived was jarring: India’s fixation with fair skin. Flores first got a glimpse into this color complex while in Delhi, when she saw a commercial for a skin-lightening cream, advertising dark-skinned complexions as something to conceal.

This was coupled with the fact that she rarely, if ever, encountered someone who looked like her during her travels. “I had been living in India and traveling frequently around Southeast Asia , and never ran into someone who looked like me doing the same thing,” Flores, who spent a little over a year in the region, told Travel + Leisure .

Though tarnished, this still-transformative trip inspired Flores to change the narrative — to find a way to amplify Black travel experiences .

“Living and working in India afforded me the luxury of frequent and inexpensive travel. In addition to close proximity to other Asian countries, I was jetting to new destinations monthly — for as little as $8 for a one-way flight,” said Flores. “I believed instead of being the subject, someone who looked like me could be the traveler…so, I set out to create a place for Black travelers to connect and explore new boundaries.” And in 2013, Travel Noire was born.

According to a 2018 study by Mandala Research , African Americans spend nearly $63 billion on travel annually. Showcasing this representation, Travel Noire launched as a space for Black travelers to be seen and share their stories, providing tools, resources, inspiration, and eventually even guided tours. “I simply wanted to create a company that spoke to the unique experiences that I encountered while traveling,” said Flores, who served as the CEO until 2017, when she sold the company to Blavity, where it continues its mission to serve as a platform for Black millennials.

Flores is still known and celebrated as a powerful voice and presence in the travel space. When asked what it means to her to be a traveler of color, The Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient, who has racked up quite a few passport stamps over the years, said, “It means that I am a cultural asset. The world is informed by Black culture — in clothes, in music, in art. I am proud, but I am also aware. I’m aware of my privilege as an African. And then as an African born in America. And as a Black person. These are all very different and carry with [them] different nuances. So, I carry these many identities with me as I travel around the world.”

And with that often comes challenges. “There are many who will mistake Black skin for dirt. There are people who have put their hands in my hair,” said Flores. “It’s getting the awkward stares when I fly in business class. It’s being denied a taxi because of the color of my skin. Then there are experiences of my friends who have been called immigrants, prostitutes, thugs, and thieves. You name it, we know it. I often have to dress nice enough for [people] to know that I have money, but not too nice so that I’m not a target. It can be an exhausting line to dance around, but when you travel as often as I have, you recognize that it’s part of the territory.”

But her relationship with travel remains strong. “I love the way [travel] challenges me to be a better person. For the way that it inspires me to dream. For the way my mind creates new worlds as a result of it. Travel has changed my life. And just when I think it can’t get any better, it does,” she said. As a travel expert — one that is tapped into the latest trends — we asked Flores to share some of her favorite Black-owned travel companies to know and support.

The Wind Collective

The Wind Collective hosts group trips that offer a mix of creativity, adventure, and cultural immersion. Travelers can choose from a variety of themes including nature, wildlife, food, culture, and nautical experiences. “What Clé and his team are doing for travel and travel content is nothing short of remarkable. Some of the most breathtaking imagery I've ever seen.”

Dipaways specializes in coordinating private and group getaways. “This brand was started by a former Travel Noire experience designer, Chadricks. He is a master at experience design — so much so that Dipaways has grown exponentially in a matter of months. He has a knack for bringing good people together. If you find yourself on this trip, you won't regret it.”

Airfordable

Drawing from her own experience of struggling to buy expensive airline tickets to visit her family in Ghana, Ama Marfo co-founded Airfordable to make travel more accessible.“They allow you to split up the cost of your flights into payment plans. I had a family friend of ours use this to fly their family of six out to France for our wedding."

Curiocity is “a network of African-designed hostels rooted in community," with locations in Cape Town and Johannesburg. "I’ve had the pleasure of staying at their Johannesburg hostel several times over the years and we’ve partnered with them to create unique experiences.”

Siviwe Tours

“ Siviwe is an inbound operator that I’ve worked with for many years. [They] specialize in guided experiences through Langa, Cape Town’s oldest township." Founded and owned by Siviwe Mbinda, a Langa local, Siviwe aims to share the culture of Langa with a wider audience, employ local residents, and support grassroots initiatives. "Much of what I know about South Africa is because of him.”

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Why These Professors Helped Create a ‘History Of Black Travel’ Timeline

By Alana Dillette and Stefanie Benjamin

exterior of National Museum Of African American History And Culture. cherry blossom trees. pathway

Black history is often told through the lens of enslavement and segregation, focusing on centuries of struggle as opposed to centering the progress and positive strides Black people continue to make in the face of adversity. Unfortunately, travel history is no different: Textbooks and heritage sites often omit Black historical narratives and travel pioneers, instead highlighting traditionally romanticized and comfortable versions of predominantly white, male, Eurocentric history .

Following another round of publicized brutality of Black people during the summer of 2020, Black travel leaders shared loudly that a spotlight on systemic racism within the tourism industry was long overdue . This global reckoning with race led to big questions, like why the travel industry needs to address its own (lack of) diversity and how the history of Black travel has historically been left out of the conversation. Almost two years later, the recent pushback against anti-racist teaching in U.S. public schools has many educators and parents concerned with how government-mandated censorship continues to whitewash and romanticize American history lesson plans. These concerns are echoed within the tourism industry with tourist sites, destinations, and museums questioning their role in how the telling of marginalized narratives , specifically Black history, should be represented.

Recognizing these stark inequities, the Black Travel Alliance , a non-profit created to encourage, educate, and equip Black travel professionals , teamed up with the organization we co-direct, Tourism RESET , an interdisciplinary research and outreach initiative that seeks to identify, study, and challenge patterns of social inequity in the tourism industry. We collectively decided that we could no longer wait for Black travel history to be readily available and accessible to the public. As educators committed to social equity and inclusion, we believe now is the time to teach the public about how the African Diaspora traveled to every inch of the earth and how they progressively made—and are making—their mark on the travel industry, from centuries past to the present day. 

Thus, the ‘ History Of Black Travel’ timeline was born.

The project has required almost two years worth of volunteered hours to research, source, and categorize over 130 entries from the Americas, focusing mainly on the United States. The content of the timeline spans twelve main categories: Ally, Accommodations, Explorers, Government, Groundbreakers, Leisure, Migration, Organizations, Publishing, Slavery, Television, and Transportation, all with the aim of highlighting Black travel pioneers along with major migration routes and leisure travel developments. 

The name Kellee Edwards, the very first Black woman to host a show on the Travel Channel may ring a bell, but did you know about Barbara Hillary , the first known Black woman and oldest person to reach the North and South Poles? How about the Highland Beach Resort , which was started by the son of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Charles Douglass, who bought land in Highland after another Maryland resort denied him entry, thus creating a mecca for Black tourists during the late 1800s? Or the Henderson Travel Agency? Preceding today’s wave of Black travel leaders, in 1955, Freddye Henderson and her husband, Jacob, opened Henderson Travel Service in Atlanta to assist African-Americans who wanted to travel internationally, thus paving the way for what we now know as an international movement of Black travelers . The timeline also includes major judicial, legislative, cultural, and historical events that have inspired Black travel as a mechanism for freedom. This is not exclusive to the U.S., and as such, our plan is to continue expanding the timeline to add Black travel stories from all continents across the globe.

As academics and industry practitioners, we are adamant about stressing the importance of the tourism industry taking a clear stand. A stand to amplify Black stories with the assistance of the timeline, even as intense pushback against the accurate telling of American history continues, be it through censorship , burning of books , and laws that perpetuate silence around discussing race globally.

But the History Of Black Travel timeline is not just for industry stakeholders. It’s for travelers of any racial or ethnic background. Our hope is that the timeline is used both as a tool for education and a resource to start meaningful conversations among travelers as they make decisions about destinations to visit, companies to support, and activities to partake in. We want it to inspire tours and destination websites that highlight Black history, the creation of Black heritage travel festivals, compensation for collaborations with Black content creators to amplify Black history within communities, and more.

Travel is meant to be transformative, and it is up to us to be the catalyst of the change we want to see towards more diversity and inclusion across the industry—one Black history timeline entry at a time.

Stefanie Benjamin is Assistant Professor in the Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management at the University of Tennessee. Alana Dillette is an Assistant Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at San Diego State University. They are both Co-Directors of Tourism RESET, a multi-university and interdisciplinary research and outreach initiative that seeks to identify, study, and challenge patterns of social inequity in the tourism industry.

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American Airlines CEO: ‘We fell short’ in removal of Black passengers

Robert Isom promises changes after racial discrimination lawsuit

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American Airlines will take new measures — including new training for staff, creating an advisory group and evaluating policies over removing people from flights — after Black passengers filed a lawsuit alleging they were forced off a plane after a complaint about body odor.

Chief executive Robert Isom wrote in a note to employees on Tuesday that the incident was “unacceptable.” Employees involved were being held accountable, according to the airline, with some removed from service.

“I am incredibly disappointed by what happened on that flight and the breakdown of our procedures,” Isom wrote. “We fell short of our commitments and failed our customers in this incident.”

Letter from American Airlines CEO Robert Isom 6.18.2024

In the lawsuit, filed last month in federal court, three passengers said American Airlines employees removed them and five other Black men from their seats on a January flight before it was scheduled to take off from Phoenix. Eventually, an employee told them that someone on the flight had complained about body odor, even though no one had accused the plaintiffs themselves.

The men eventually were allowed back on the flight to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, but the lawsuit called the experience “traumatic, upsetting, scary, humiliating, and degrading.” The three men who ultimately filed the suit shared contact information after the flight but did not see the other five again.

American Airlines declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday. A recent court filing said the plaintiffs and the airline “have agreed to engage in settlement discussions.”

The allegations placed American back under scrutiny, several years after the NAACP issued a travel advisory in 2017 warning that Black passengers could encounter “disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions” when flying on the airline.

Derrick Johnson, the NAACP’s president and CEO, said that advisory was lifted the following year, after American committed to moves — including creating a diversity, equity and inclusion council — to prevent discrimination. He warned in a statement earlier this month that the NAACP would need to reinstate an advisory if the airline did not deliver a “swift and decisive response” to the situation. The statement said American disbanded the DEI council in 2023 and urged the airline to revive it.

Isom wrote in his letter to employees that he had spoken with Johnson about the NAACP’s concerns. American is creating a new “oversight and excellence advisory group” that will focus on improving travel for Black passengers, Isom said. The airline also is updating its process for handling customer allegations of discrimination or bias; reviewing operational manuals, with a focus on scenarios where passengers could be removed; and introducing new training to help staff “recognize and address bias and discrimination.”

In an emailed statement Thursday, the NAACP said it had made the return of that advisory council one of its conditions for not issuing a new advisory.

“The NAACP is pleased to see American Airlines has taken initial steps to forge a path toward a more inclusive experience for all,” the organization said. “While it is unfortunately common for Black consumers to experience racism and discrimination at the hands of corporations, it is not common to see such swift, and decisive action. It is our hope that this approach will serve as a model for other corporations who may find themselves in similar situations.”

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American Airlines CEO Calls Removal Of Black Passengers From Phoenix Flight 'Unacceptable'

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DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines put an unspecified number of employees on leave for their involvement in an incident in which several Black passengers were removed from a flight in Phoenix, allegedly over a complaint about body odor.

American CEO Robert Isom wrote in a note to staff that the incident was unacceptable.

“I am incredibly disappointed by what happened on that flight and the breakdown of our procedures,” Isom said in the note this week. “It contradicts our values. … We fell short of our commitments and failed our customers in this incident.”

American Airlines passenger jets are lined up at Washington's Reagan National Airport in Virginia.

Three Black passengers sued the airline last month, charging that they were removed from the January flight because of racial discrimination. They said they were told that a white male flight attendant had complained about an unidentified passenger’s body odor.

The men said they did not know each other and were seated separately while waiting for the plane to depart for New York. The three said they were among eight passengers – all the Black men on the flight, they said – who were told to leave the plane.

The men said they demanded an explanation for their removal during a confrontation with airline personnel in the jet bridge. At least one of the men recorded the discussion, capturing an airline employee seeming to agree that the men were discriminated against, according to their lawsuit.

After a delay of about an hour, they were allowed back on the plane.

American did not say how many employees were put on leave or describe their job titles. A spokesperson for the airline said, “We are holding those involved accountable, including removing team members from service.”

Isom said American would form an advisory group to focus on the experience of Black customers, to promote the reporting of discrimination allegations, and to improve diversity training to “focus on real-world situations to help recognize and address bias and discrimination.”

In his note, which was reported earlier by CBS News, Isom said he had spoken with the president of the NAACP about the incident. The civil rights group did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

American has faced allegations of discrimination in the recent past. In 2017, the NAACP warned Black travelers about flying on the airline, claiming that several African American passengers had experienced discrimination from airline employees. American promised to make changes, and the NAACP lifted the advisory nearly nine months later.

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American Airlines CEO says the removal of several Black passengers from a flight was 'unacceptable'

David Koenig

Associated Press

DALLAS – American Airlines put an unspecified number of employees on leave for their involvement in an incident in which several Black passengers were removed from a flight in Phoenix, allegedly over a complaint about body odor.

American CEO Robert Isom wrote in a note to staff that the incident was unacceptable.

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"I am incredibly disappointed by what happened on that flight and the breakdown of our procedures,” Isom said in the note this week. “It contradicts our values. … We fell short of our commitments and failed our customers in this incident.”

Three Black passengers sued the airline last month, charging that they were removed from the January flight because of racial discrimination. They said they were told that a white male flight attendant had complained about an unidentified passenger's body odor.

The men said they did not know each other and were seated separately while waiting for the plane to depart for New York. The three said they were among eight passengers – all the Black men on the flight, they said – who were told to leave the plane.

The men said they demanded an explanation for their removal during a confrontation with airline personnel in the jet bridge. At least one of the men recorded the discussion, capturing an airline employee seeming to agree that the men were discriminated against, according to their lawsuit.

After a delay of about an hour, they were allowed back on the plane.

American did not say how many employees were put on leave or describe their job titles. A spokesperson for the airline said, “We are holding those involved accountable, including removing team members from service.”

Isom said American would form an advisory group to focus on the experience of Black customers, to promote the reporting of discrimination allegations, and to improve diversity training to “focus on real-world situations to help recognize and address bias and discrimination.”

In his note, which was reported earlier by CBS News, Isom said he had spoken with the president of the NAACP about the incident. The civil rights group did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

American has faced allegations of discrimination in the recent past. In 2017, the NAACP warned Black travelers about flying on the airline, claiming that several African American passengers had experienced discrimination from airline employees. American promised to make changes, and the NAACP lifted the advisory nearly nine months later.

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Rfk jr. campaign paid russell brand's production co. $68k for appearance, rfk jr. campaign paid $68k for russell brand appearance ... covered travel, etc..

Russell Brand 's production company got paid a nice chunk of change for performing at a Robert F. Kennedy Jr. event earlier this year ... and we're talking tens of thousands.

TMZ pulled Team Kennedy's FEC filings ... and it shows the campaign shelled out more than $68,000 to Russell's production company for "Event Entertainment - Travel Expenses" after he appeared at a campaign event for RFK Jr. and his running mate Nicole Shanahan .

Russell performed at RFK Jr.'s event in May out in Nashville -- and it was called "Night of Comedy," alongside other comedians including Rob Schneider , Dave Landau , Jim Breuer , Katherine Blanford , Jeff Dye , and Mike Binder . Russell reportedly did a filmed set where he went after legacy media and scoffed at coronavirus mandates and vax requirements.

Now, if you're wondering why an RB appearance might be this damn expensive -- amounting to $68,417.96, specifically -- we've talked to sources who tell us the money covered not just Russell's travel expenses (like the docs indicate) but also ... touched other elements of his performance, including paying for the transportation of his crew, equipment, etc.

Mind you ... the guy is reported to be living in the UK these days, so that explains a lot.

Anyway, it's clear Russ didn't give Kennedy and co. a friendly discount -- even though they are pals and RFK Jr.'s been featured on RB's podcast "Stay Free Russell" a handful of times now.

Interestingly, a few weeks after the RFK campaign event ... the comedian sat down with RNC spokeswoman Elizabeth Pipko , where he encouraged Americans to vote for Donald Trump over Joe Biden . Granted -- he was asked about the hypothetical between just the two of them .. and he didn't outright endorse Trump here.

Then again ... he hasn't outright endorsed RFK Jr. either -- despite being cozy with him.

Nonetheless, RFK Jr. has nabbed a number of celebrity endorsements, including Alicia Silverstone , Kevin Spacey , Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg , among others.

We've reached out to Team Kennedy for comment ... so far, no word back.

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