American Airlines CEO Tells Employees That Republican Voting Laws Target People Of Color

At an American Airlines employee meeting last week, a pilot asked CEO Doug Parker why the company needed to interject itself into political issues – like state election law – to please people in media and on twitter. After all, customers fly American to get from point A to point B, not for its position on voting rules, so why upset people on the other side?

View From The Wing reviewed a recording of Parker’s response,

To us this isn’t a partisan issue. We don’t get involved in partisan politics, we don’t want to. It’s an equity issue. The statement we’ve made is in support of our team.

Let me back up and tell you how we came to that conclusion. Anyone I think would agree that it’s important there be integrity in the voting results so no one’s going to dispute that.

The issue that’s arisen in these efforts and these bills is they’ve become very divisive. They tend to be on political lines but they also tend to be on lines of people of color versus others, and that’s what we saw.

So as soon as Delta was being asked and making statements in Georgia, I started getting questions from a lot of team members about where’s American on this? People of color primarily feeling as though these laws are making it much harder for people like them to vote. And given the history of this country, that’s something that’s happened in the past, and they’re very much concerned that’s what’s happening again.

So you have that concern coming from team members. About the same time there’s a letter from 70-odd black executives, CEOs and others, saying hey business we have to get involved in this. This is an effort to restrain the right for people like us to vote. And then on top of that the NAACP the legal defense fund has filed a opposition to the Texas law. And that’s when we made a statement was when the Texas Senate passed something, and we were being asked by a lot of our team to get involved and by the way the Delta issue was already going on.

We looked at all that, and again not by any means trying to make one side happy or the other but doing what we do which is trying to bring people together on a very divisive issue that’s divided along cultural lines to say we’re opposed to this.

And without getting into great detail, I’m happy to if anyone who wants to, but when you look at as we did the provisions that are in that Texas law – things like not allowing polling centers to be open except 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. that makes it harder for working people to get there, certainly people who work off-shift. Only having a certain number of polling positions per polling office, so if you’re in an urban area you’re probably going to have a longer line than someone in a rural area. Things that people of color feel as though as designed to make it harder for them to vote.

So anyone my short answer to all of this is we’re not trying to pick a side with Democrats or Republicans or voting integrity or not, but we are absolutely going to stand with our black employees and our latino employees when they feel like – and we can make a difference and what we say is important – and today in this country it is.

…We feel very strongly. We did the same thing by the way on things like bathroom bills in North Carolina and Texas, which I’m proud of irrespective of anybody’s politics it’s about pulling people together, it’s about supporting our team.

And by the way there’s a business issue that comes out of this. On those bathroom bills, what happened when North Carolina passed theirs? They lost the NBA All Star Game, they lost Bruce Springsteen concerts, they lost travel. That’s what’s going to happen and it’s happened now in Georgia. They lost the Major League Baseball All Star Game. They’re going to lose travel. That affects us.

I don’t want to say that’s the full reason, we didn’t do it primarily because of business reasons, we did it for what I said, in support of our team. But it does have business reasons.

The more we divide ourselves, and the more divisive we become, the less likely it is that people are going to travel to states that take divisive stances, and that’s not good for us either.

…The short answer is this is not trying to make one side happy or the other. We knew full well the easiest – I was about to say the easiest thing was to stay out of it, that’s not the easiest thing. I think there was virtually no chance we could stay out of it. You have to take a stand on these things. We were asked to take a stand and so we did.

In 2017 the NAACP issued a ‘travel warning’ against flying American Airlines after Womens March Co-Chair and Louis Farrakhan supporter Tamika Mallory, traveling to Al Sharpton’s daughter’s wedding, was kicked off a flight in a dispute over a seat (she reported changing her middle seat to an aisle on a kiosk, but was denied that aisle seat).

Since then Parker has become heavily focused on issues of race. He reports wearing a Black Lives Matter wristband since last May and had a viral conversation with a Southwest Airlines flight attendant about race prompted by his reading White Fragility on board.

Listening to him talking about voting bills, he comes across as very sincere. The statement American issued on the Texas law was far more milquetoast than what Parker said to directly. The statement seemed as though American was pressured to speak out after Delta had done so ham-handedly (opposing Georgia’s law after claiming credit for its final form).

Parker sees himself as a protector, it’s also with how he described his legacy before the pandemic, that his mission is to make sure employees always have a job they can count on and feel taken care of (yet he managed to furlough more of them during the pandemic than any other airline CEO).

This isn’t the first time recently that Parker has dunked on Republicans. He was a Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton donor, and while he’s given to Republicans in the past decade that’s tended to skew towards the politically useful such as home-state Senators and members of Congressional committees with influence over airlines.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. “…We feel very strongly. We did the same thing by the way on things like bathroom bills in North Carolina and Texas, which I’m proud of irrespective of anybody’s politics it’s about pulling people together, it’s about supporting our team.”

    But nothing but praise for China:

    https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/airlines-china/

    “I visited China as my first destination abroad since taking up the new position”

  2. @Tim – how is this B.S.?

    1) I am sharing a literal transcript

    2) I am not criticizing his position, and suggesting it’s earnestly held, while offering some context around it.

  3. I’m a person of color and I have to show my ID to enter a school, to enter state and federal buildings, to buy alcohol or Tobacco. Heck I even have to show my ID to board a plane. How does one prove oneself without an ID?

    Anyone who says NO to ID is looking to cheat elections

  4. What a fool!…appears he’s gone over to the woke side…Another useful idiot…too bad he has no backbone…
    My days of flying American & Delta are over.

  5. @Tim,

    If you were at the meeting then it would be much more constructive to tell us what exactly was BS!

  6. “American Airlines CEO Tells Employees That People of Color Are TooHelpless, Dimwitted to Acquire Photo ID”

  7. If airlines think people should be allowed to vote without IDs then one should be allowed to board a flight without ID or security checks.

    Will airlines fight against the government to stop security checks and tell them NOT to ask for IDs to board a flight? or would they ask all countries to accept whomsoever enters their borders without immigration check and customs check?

  8. @William so far, Politicians and people like AA CEOs are the biggest hypocrites. Do they think person of color cannot get an ID or too stupid to know the rules or so poor they cannot afford an ID or do they assume all POC’s are criminals?

  9. For once, Parker got something right. He is correct and is positioning the company properly.

  10. Are all these CEO and companies saying that people with dark skin are just too dumb to get an ID???

    Where the hell is this new skin color based racism coming from????

    You need an ID to buy so many things.
    Welcome to the brave new world. Racism = Anti-Racism. Judging people by their skin color is now ‘Anti-Racist’

    God, this country is so f******

  11. Oh silly Doug. You are driving that “bus with wings” airline into the mountainside.

    Just go away already. The employees feel as though you lied to them. Passengers hate the tight seats and lack of video screens. You act and sound like a tired old grandpa.

  12. Seems like you got all the buzz words in there, Gary.

    This blog is become clickbate for the 8Chun crowd.

  13. And yet a new poll from NPR/PBS/Marist shows that the majority of Americans want companies and sports to stay out of politics.

  14. Another installment of “View From the LEFT Wing…”

    Companies need to stay out of politics. Voter ID is needed. Period.

  15. Oh, Doug.

    Imagine simultaneously believing that black people are too stupid to get an ID to vote while running a company whose product is literally inaccessible to people without ID.

    Clown world.

  16. Yet they still fly to china, india, israel, and many other countries with racism promoted by governments. Stop flying there and I will take parker seriously.

  17. At this point, reading comment sections, I have to wonder if Gary just recruits all of his readers from Klan meetings or something…?

  18. A certain group of people now firmly believe that if they don’t like a law, then it doesn’t apply to them. The law should apply to everyone equally. Racism fuels a certain portion of the electorate, and they will find systemic racism in every facet of daily life. One political party in particular wins elections by fueling the flames of division, racism and class warfare. Corporations who have gone through multiple bankruptcies and taking public dole, should have be laser focused on fixing their balance sheets and profitability, as well as improving the customer experience. They certainy should not be butting into areas of nonexpertise such as voting laws. Executives who can’t even successfully run a public corporation are certainly not people I look to for advice.

  19. I sometimes get asked why any company would inject itself into politics. Either side a company takes, it is going to PO half the customers. Doug Parker has given the answer. Companies’ junior (read: under 30) employees are harassing management on a daily basis to publicly embrace liberal (progressive, or whatever you want to label them) positions.

    As far as Dougie donating to both parties, that is just how the game is played, like it or not. He is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. He has to donate to anyone who can help his company. It’s called access.

  20. I wonder what Dougie will do if the GOP retakes Congress in 2022 and he needs something from them. Or if the GOP wins the White House in 2024 and he wants something from that person (whether it’s Trump or someone else).

  21. I’m guessing that this big-mouthed creep cannot say exactly HOW these laws target minorities.

    That is a rather important point, because if he cannot say how they target minorities, then they do not actually target minorities.

    Meaning all of his pretentious blather is just virtue signaling, just like when he patted himself on the back for having dinner with one of us peasants, and a BLACK peasant at that.

    I am so happy I am not an American loyalist (I’m a United loyalist, and they’re just as woke, but at least they treat me well).

  22. Gee Gary, one commenter calls you “View from the LEFT Wing,” the next commenter calls you a Klansman. When the extremes are POed at you, you must be doing something right. 🙂

  23. American Airlines CEO Tells Employees That Oasis Seating Laws Target People Of All Colors

  24. @Ryan,

    Just because you have a different point of view than some does not give you the right to imply that everything that does not comport with it is racist! Because of comments like yours the cry of “racism” will be taken less and less seriously in the future to all of our detriment. It’s been watered down and applied to things that are mostly purposefully taken out of context, meant to inflame and divide in the pursuit of political power or profits. You are contributing to that, congrats!

  25. Airlines are NOT needed to coerce communities and manage voting laws. The next USA midterm election is over a year away. Make your preparations now. Go get an ID. It is free. Arrange for a ride to the polls. You have over a year to prepare. Anyone that can’t make arrangements by then – with over a year to make them – has only themselves to blame. Of course there appear to be no limits to stupidity and laziness.

  26. Doug Parker and other CEOs simply don’t get it. STAY THE HELL OUT OF POLITICS ! No matter what your position is you will upset and offend someone. In the old days this was taught in business school. It’s one thing to promote breast cancer awareness, have food bank drives, pick up trash etc. it’s another to get involved with political hot button issues. There are already certain companies I no longer choose to do business with and this is the reason I stopped watching the NBA. If I want to buy a product or watch a sporting event I do not want to be lectured regarding someone else’s political beliefs or leanings. Other countries get this why not the US. Mainly because our mainstream media thrives on cancel culture / polarization in order to keep everyone at odds with each other, in a feeble attempt to boost their pathetic ratings.

  27. I’m in an alternate universe with this race nonsense. All in all, we are still paying big time for the free labor! I cannot believe airline execs want to join in the conversation which further stirs the pot of so called systemic racism. There are too many factions now and it will destroy us from within.

  28. Such degrading nonsense! Do you really think a black person is not as capable as a white man, and cannot navigate voting?? There is so much time for any person to figure out how they will vote 2 or 4 years from now! Are you also assuming that certain ethnicities don’t have cars or drive? I guess they never go to a dr. or fly on an airplane, buy a bus ticket, have a bank account, write a check, rent an apartment, buy a house …., These are all ridiculous, silly arguments that defy common sense but create racism. We are all equal, period that should be the message all day, everyday!!

  29. Three years ago AAL’s stock was at ~$50. Today, ~$22. Mr. Parker should understand that he has a fiduciary responsibility to his shareholders. I suspect they would rather he focused on digging out of the hole he and COVID dug than blathering on about social justice. Doug should realize: “Get woke, go broke.”
    Part of the problem is that Parker is both CEO and Chairman (A thoroughly bad idea IMO, in ANY company). If he had a strong Chair to kick him in the ass a few times he might focus on business better.

  30. Instead of pandering to the “I feel suppressed” and “I’m a victim” crowds, can we not just have a conversation based on facts? Or is that too inconvenient?
    If you actually read the Georgia law, you might actually understand that it’s just logical sense. Nothing sinister, just a reasonable effort to suppress illegal voting. So Doug now believes you should be able to vote if you’re dead, illegally in this country, can’t prove who you are, or a terrorist? And yet those folks aren’t allowed on his airplanes?
    Why is he supporting this false victim mentality? Facts matter! Get an ID already. Geez.

  31. Doug here’s a thought. Start a program that helps people get an ID so they can vote and we can take “common sense” (the lefts catch phrase) steps to secure our elections. You’d be killing two birds with one stone. But most of us know that’s not really what this is about.

  32. Lol all you people need to click back over to Fox News. The voter is bill didn’t just require an id to vote. That’s what your brainwashing media wants you to believe because…..shouldn’t everyone have an id to vote? Of course they should and what places don’t? Hell I live in Ohio and I’ve needed one since I can remember. That is lipstick on a pig.

    The real potion of the bill you all should be worried about is closing of urban poll sites meaning longer lines. Reducing polling hours. Being forbidden of serving water or anything to those waiting in line and neutering mail in voting.

    If you all really support voting for all, we should do what every other civilized country does and make it voting online or mark voting day a national holiday.

  33. @David – what is this really about then? Don’t forget it was Republicans crying foul and providing not one shred of evidence. Not one. Although it has been proven, full stop, that there was election interference in 2016 but since the outcome was to your liking let’s not do anything.

    This is exactly Jim Crow in the 21st century. They can’t ask you to take or test or pay a tax but they can limit voting as much as legally possible in Democratically leaning areas as possible. It’s not just about an ID card.

    Republicans cant do shit except bitch unless it comes to gerrymandering and voter suppression. They do those quite well.

  34. Can we hear from a few dozen more people that many black people don’t have voter ID? How about black people being savy enough to know than the majority of legislatures in all our 50 states have few black Representatives to think about black interests. And I bet you guys are church going Christians. I guess I am white with a black or brown thinking heart and brain. Shame on you and you know who you are.

  35. “Because of comments like yours the cry of “racism” will be taken less and less seriously in the future to all of our detriment.”

    Just so I follow, your argument is that calling a bunch of racists racists waters down the term racist…?

    If you see “American Airlines Tells their Employees that Republican Voting Laws Target People of Color”, know that they do target people of color, and the top comment is “American Airlines is starting a race war”, you’re saying you’re a sad, dumb, racist coward. Which apparently is the audience Gary is striving for at this point.

    Sorry to have upset you by calling racists racists. That must have been very hard for you @dan777. Though, when you’re a dumb, sad and a coward, lots of things are probably hard for you.

  36. @Ryan, As a person of color, let me remind you so you will never forget in your life. YOU ARE A RACIST. Anyone who looks at a color of the skin and not the act itself is a racist and you fit right there 100%

  37. Ryan,

    You’ve words speak volumes. Keep on dividing and stoking passions between fair minded people. Dumb, Sad, Coward? Really? I guess those are the insults you are left with when you’ve used “Racist” too much…..very mature! Again I encourage you to take a step back, maybe one day you’ll see the forest for the trees and realize both parties are in the manipulation game with lies on both sides! Again not everyone that disagrees with you on this is a racist! If that enrages you then you have bigger issues!

  38. To Ryan,

    Calling someone racist for calling you out for throwing that word around willy nilly…..really? You’ve all but proven his point! Please educate yourself and moderate your passions lest you fill your heart with hate and twist yourself into the very type of person you’ve grown to despise!

  39. When I started flying for Delta in 69, there were at least two things you were not allowed to discuss: religion and politics. It was still the same when I moved to another carrier, there are just certain subjects we were not supposed to discuss. While I retired back in 02, I still practiced those policies.

    It is one thing for an airline to support breast cancer and other non political issues, but another for AA to put their staff in the middle of this issue, whether they want to be or not. They even went so far as to design a BLM pin for employees.

  40. To all the “get an ID or don’t vote” crowd – ask yourself (if mentally capable), as with all legislation out there, “what is this trying to solve?”

    Supposed voter fraud (aka the Big Lie)? Doesn’t exist – and all your Republican Secretaries of State confirmed it on Election Day/Week. This was cited as just about the most secure election in history actually.

    To keep as many voters of color disenfranchised as possible, given the historically high levels of voting, thus decreasing the ability to vote (and compensating for your retrograde conservative policies that are out of step w/America)? Yup, sounds about right. And this is the least egregious of all the garbage *coughrestorevoterconfidencecough* laws your pathetic Republican leaders were trying to pass.

    Whiny little b***hes.

  41. People of color have a voice. Whites should as well. Whites should be able to call out laws and policies that adversely affect and harm whites. Leftists don’t believe in equality and equal standards and equal treatment. They believe in black supremacy and anti white hate. No other race is the world is not allowed to have their own caucus/own countries/own living space/pride. Only whites are denied the ability to assemble and act as a people. Wake up white America.

  42. UA-NYC,

    Quite a narrative you have going there considering Rasmussen came out last week that “ Majorities of whites (74%), blacks (69%) and other minorities (82%) say voters should be required to show photo identification before being allowed to vote. Voters under 40 support voter ID laws more than do older voters.” Push too far on this (and other things) and you are liable to loose both houses…. you can spin all you like but once you start believing it unquestioningly in your own mind (like the right wingers and the Q people) you tend to fall hard.

  43. Lotta angry white boomers here, Gary, your post must’ve hit some right-wing site, sending many of them here to comment—WITHOUT READING THE POST (that’s why all the replies barf about photo ID instead of reduced polling places, hours, etc.).

    You boomers (I’m one) are old and getting more obsolete by the second. Companies aren’t making their decisions based on your generation, because you are old and dying. And you tick off millennials, who spend lots more money than you. They’d rather capture the millennial dollars, which is just smart business.

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