Three Black Men Sue American Airlines for Race Discrimination After Being Ordered Off Plane

Outten & Golden
May 29, 2024

The three Black male New York residents, who were not travelling together, allege that American Airlines removed them from a flight based solely on the color of their skin.

NEW YORK, NY – Today, three Black men filed a federal lawsuit against American Airlines for race discrimination, alleging that the airline forced them (and several other Black male passengers) to deboard a plane following a complaint that an unidentified passenger had body odor.

On January 5, 2024, plaintiffs Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph and Xavier Veal boarded American Airlines Flight 832 from Phoenix (PHX) to New York (JFK). Before January 5, the plaintiffs had never met, and they were not seated together on the plane.

Before takeoff, but shortly after the pilot announced an anticipated early arrival time, an American Airlines representative approached the plaintiffs one by one and ordered them off the plane without explanation, according to the lawsuit. Five other Black male passengers, in addition to the three plaintiffs, were also removed from the plane. As the plaintiffs began to comply with the directive to deplane, they noticed that the only passengers who were being ordered off the plane were Black men, and it appeared that every Black man on the flight was being removed. 

Once off the plane, an American Airlines representative informed the plaintiffs and the other Black men that they would not be allowed to fly on Flight 832 and would need to be rebooked. As alleged in the complaint, when the plaintiffs demanded an explanation, an American representative explained that they were removed from the flight because a white male flight attendant had complained about an unidentified passenger’s body odor. Notably, at no time did anyone accuse any of the plaintiffs of having offensive body odor. 

When the plaintiffs pointed out that it looked like they were being targeted because of the color of their skin, at least one American representative responded that she did “not disagree.” According to the complaint, while the plaintiffs continued to protest at the gate, the pilot announced to the remaining passengers on the plane that the men had been removed because of a reported body odor complaint. After American informed the plaintiffs that there were no other flights that evening to rebook them on, the airline reversed its decision and let all of the men reboard Flight 832 and depart for JFK. In the end, the flight was delayed by over an hour, and the plaintiffs were humiliated and traumatized by the experience.

“What happened to us was wrong. Imagine a flight attendant ordering every white person off a plane because of a complaint about one white person. That would never happen. But that is what happened to us. There is no explanation other than the color of our skin. American Airlines singled us out for being Black, embarrassed us, and humiliated us. Clearly, this was discrimination,” said the three plaintiffs, Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph, and Xavier Veal, in a statement.

“What happened to the plaintiffs strongly suggests that American Airlines racially profiled them. If American Airlines received a complaint about a Black male passenger with offensive body odor, but could not verify the complaint, the solution should not have been to eject eight separate Black men from the plane,” said Susan Huhta, partner at Outten & Golden and attorney for the plaintiffs. “This incident is consistent with a disturbing history of allegations that American Airlines discriminates against Black passengers. We look forward to getting these men justice and, hopefully, decreasing the likelihood that American Airlines ever does this to another Black passenger.”

“This complaint follows other reported incidents of American Airlines mistreating Black travelers who are simply trying to reach their destinations,” said Michael Kirkpatrick, attorney at Public Citizen Litigation Group and attorney for the plaintiffs. “American Airlines’ treatment of the Black men aboard Flight 832 — and countless other Black passengers and passengers of color over many years — cannot be tolerated. Jackson, Joseph, and Veal deserve justice.”

The lawsuit alleges that American Airlines has a documented history of subjecting passengers of color – particularly Black passengers – to blatantly discriminatory and substandard treatment. In 2017, the NAACP issued a travel advisory warning Black passengers that they could be subjected to “disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions” if they fly on American Airlines.

The plaintiffs are represented by Susan E. Huhta and Lindsay M. Goldbrum of Outten & Golden LLP, and Michael Kirkpatrick and Lauren E. Bateman of Public Citizen Litigation Group.

The case is Alvin Jackson et al. v. American Airlines, Inc.,Case No. 24-CV-3818 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

About Outten & Golden LLP

Outten & Golden LLP is the largest U.S. law firm dedicated to the representation of employees. With offices in New York City, Washington D.C. and San Francisco, the firm has taken on many of the country’s largest and most powerful employers, forging landmark settlements and historic verdicts that contribute to a more equitable workplace. As a mission-driven firm, O&G uses litigation and other means to expand the rights of all employees to fair wages and working conditions, and a workplace free of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. O&G also frequently litigates major civil rights matters, including the federal government’s discriminatory use of criminal background checks, the denial of consumer loans to DACA recipients, digital redlining and free speech suppression by major technology companies, and much more. Learn more at

About Public Citizen Litigation Group

Public Citizen Litigation Group is the litigating arm of Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. Public Citizen defends democracy, resists corporate power, and works to ensure that government works for the people. Through its Litigation Group, Public Citizen litigates to protect the rights of consumers to access the courts and to stop rollbacks of important consumer, worker, and environmental protections. Learn more at