American Airlines sued after Black man is removed from flight
A Black man from Arizona and four other people filed a joint racial discrimination lawsuit against American Airlines after the man was removed from a flight.
The four other passengers who joined the suit defended the man, Elgin Banks, when a white flight attendant told him to gather his belongings and leave after he tried to switch his seat, attorney Theida Salazar told NBC News.
But a spokesperson for American Airlines said the allegations "are not a full or accurate portrayal of the incident."
The suit states that when Banks boarded the flight on May 31 from Los Angeles to Phoenix he "politely requested if the flight was full and if he could change seats if open seats were available."
Banks was told that he could move to a different seat after boarding was completed, according to the lawsuit. After it was announced that everyone had boarded the plane, several passengers who were not Black switched seats.
Banks then flagged down a flight attendant and asked if he could sit closer to the front of the plane, the suit states.
"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.' "
The attendant told Banks not to raise his voice and told him to sit down. Part of the incident was caught on cellphone video, according to KTLA, which first reported the story.
Banks did as he was told, but soon after was approached by security and told he had to get off the plane. Several passengers asked why Banks 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,'" Salazar said.
Banks was removed from the flight, and the other passengers were "escorted off as well as each of them were witnesses advocating for Elgin," the suit states.
They were all later banned by American Airlines, according to the attorney.
The airline company said that Banks had requested to relocate to the first-class cabin and was told that he was not eligible to do so and to stay in his assigned seat.
American Airlines denied that the passengers were banned and said everyone who was not a local resident was given a hotel voucher.
"Discrimination of any kind is not acceptable and does not align with our values, which is why we launched an investigation. We are continuing to review this incident, but we believe that the allegations are not a full or accurate portrayal of the incident," the statement read.