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Three Black men sue American Airlines for racial discrimination after allegedly being pulled off plane over body odor complaint

In an interview with NBC News, two of the men said they were singled out for being Black and were still haunted by the encounter.

Three Black men filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against American Airlines, claiming they were racially discriminated against when they were allegedly pulled off a plane over a body odor complaint.

The men had boarded a New York City-bound flight in Phoenix on Jan. 5 when an American Airlines employee asked eight passengers, who were all Black men, to leave the plane, according to the lawsuit. Three of them are part of the lawsuit. 

The plaintiffs — Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph and Xavier Veal — say they did not know each other and were not seated together, according to the lawsuit.

In an interview Wednesday with NBC News, Jackson and Jean-Joseph said they felt singled out for being Black and were humiliated by the episode.

“Being grouped and removed hits all these trigger points of things that I don’t think should happen to Black people anymore,” Jackson, 27, said.

Jean-Joseph said the men were made to look like criminals as they walked down the aisle of the plane. He said he has not flown since the incident and that he broke down as he relived it Wednesday, when the lawsuit was filed. 

“It still affects me,” he said. “When I do get on a plane again, it’s going to be something that haunts me.”

In a statement, American Airlines said it was investigating the incident and that the “claims do not reflect our core values or our purpose of caring for people.”

“We take all claims of discrimination very seriously and want our customers to have a positive experience when they choose to fly with us,” the company said.

All eight men reboarded the flight about an hour later, after complaining about discrimination and after the airline could not book them on a later flight, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the Eastern District of New York.

The plaintiffs are seeking awards of compensatory damages to be determined in a jury trial.

“They suffered during the entire flight home, and the entire incident was traumatic, upsetting, scary, humiliating, and degrading,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also alleges that American Airlines has a documented history of mistreating Black passengers, citing a 2017 NAACP travel advisory warning Black passengers that their safety could be compromised if they flew American Airlines, referencing a series of “troublesome conduct” by employees at the time. 

At the time, then-CEO Doug Parker said the company does not “tolerate discrimination of any kind” and said American Airlines had reached out to the NAACP to discuss concerns.

This article originally appeared on NBC

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