KEY POINTS

  • A Black passenger in one of American Airlines' flight was removed from the plane
  • A white flight attendant told him to gather his things and leave after he tried to change seats
  • Passengers filed a racial discrimination suit against the airline

American Airlines is being sued by some of its passengers for offloading a Black man from Arizona from its flight bound for Phoenix. They say a white flight attendant told Elgin Banks, a Black American, to gather his things and leave the plane after he tried to change his seat.

Different Narratives

According to Elgin Banks and four other passengers who joined him in his racial discrimination suit, they were already aboard the American Airlines plane at Los Angeles airport and were bound for Phoenix. Theida Salazar, the attorney for Banks and his companions, told NBC News Friday that after her client tried to switch his seat, a flight attendant came up to him and asked him to leave the plane.

An American Airlines spokesperson, however, had a different account of events and claimed that the allegations made were neither complete nor an accurate portrayal of what really happened. The spokesperson said that Banks asked to relocate to the first-class section but was told that he was not eligible and had to stay in his assigned place. “One of the seats he attempted to sit in was assigned to another passenger. The disruption on board required deplaning passengers with the flight departing the next day,” the spokesperson told a news outlet.

Black Arizonian sues American Airlines for racial discrimination Black Arizonian sues American Airlines for racial discrimination Photo: Gratisography - Pexels

The Discrimination Charge

According to the suit filed by Banks’ attorney, the Black Arizona man boarded the flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix on May 31. He then claimed to have politely requested if he could change his seat if there were open seats available. Banks was allegedly told that he could change seats only after boarding is complete. After an announcement was made that all passengers are already aboard, some white commuters immediately switched seats, according to the suit filed by Banks.

He then claimed to have flagged down an attendant to ask if he could change his seat to that which is closer to the front of the plane. According to the suit, the flight attendant is alleged to have replied, ‘'Sir, step back’ in a somewhat intimidating and aggressive tone. Banks said he told the flight attendant he was just asking if he could change his seat to the one closer to the front.

Approached By Security

The Black American recalled the attendant reminding him not to raise his voice and advising him to take his seat, which he did, according to a KTLA report. Soon after, however, Banks was approached by security personnel and told he had to deplane.

Some passengers started to ask why he was being removed. “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,” Banks’ attorney said. Eventually, the Black Arizona man was removed from the plane, along with several other passengers.