US Airways
Two African-American passengers were allegedly forced to remove hoodies and baseball caps to sit in first-class seats on a US Airways flight. The men were traveling on so-called buddy passes, which the airline claims require a stricter dress code. Reuters

Two African-American passengers have filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the flagship unit of US Airways Group Inc. (NYSE:LCC) after an airline employee allegedly told the brothers that their jeans, hoodies and baseball caps were “inappropriate” for the first-class section.

McCraig Warren and Miles Warren have sued the airline, claiming that when they tried to board a plane in Denver, a US Airways worker told them that they would have to change attire in accordance with an alleged first-class dress code.

According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the employee told the brothers they would need to change into button-down shirts, dress shoes and slacks if they wanted to sit in first class for their flight to Los Angeles last Aug. 19. They did, but when they boarded the aircraft, they met a white passenger and his Filipino friend who both wore hoodies and jeans in first class.

Now, the brothers are seeking punitive damages for discrimination and emotional distress.

US Airways said it takes these allegations seriously and is reviewing the complaint.

“We welcome customers of all ethnicities and backgrounds and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” the airline told told Alternet.

US Airways said initial indications showed that the two African-American men were “pass-riders” traveling on nonrevenue tickets as part of the airline’s employee travel program.

“All employees and pass-riders are expected to comply with the policies associated with this travel privilege,” US Airways added.

The Warrens’ lawyer, Rodney Diggs, told the New York Daily News that the brothers got their passes through a family friend who is a US Airways employee. However, he added that his clients were never informed that different policies applied to reduced-fare tickets.

“If this is a policy, it has to be practiced at all times and not just selectively implemented when they want it to be implemented,” Diggs said. “They were very upset when they saw the other two gentlemen sitting right across from them [wearing jeans and hoodies]. This is definitely racial discrimination and a violation of their civil rights.”

Several airline employees sounded off on the issue in an early report posted on

“As every airline employee knows, there is a very specific code for dress and behavior when traveling on a pass,” one commenter noted. “Sadly, the employee who was kind enough to offer the passes to these whiners will be the one paying the consequences.”

“This story has me fuming,” another wrote. “How long before airlines will decide that the bad publicity isn't worth it and take away our nonrev privileges?”