American Airlines Falsely Accuses Black Musician Of Trafficking His Kids, Refuses To Apologize

Musician David Ryan Harris flew American from Atlanta to Los Angeles on last Friday, September 15th, and he was met on arrival by four police officers and an airline employee.

  • Taken by surprise, it turns out that a flight attendant on board thought that his mixed race children couldn’t be his, because they didn’t engage her when she interacted with them.

  • The officers questioned his kids. He was angry and it was tough not to “lose [his] mind.” The officers and the American Airlines employee went on their way, having satisfied themselves that he wasn’t trafficking his children, but with no apology from the airline.

Harris’s son felt like he done something wrong, endangering the family. So he wanted an apology, to show his son that the airline was wrong. He called customer service, and was told he had to fill out a form online to complain instead. He did that, but American did not respond. He received a likelihood to recommend survey. He gave a 0. He didn’t hear back from that either.

American had been the dad’s “airline of choice since 2004” and he is just about to hit million miler status. He wonders if race factored into the flight attendant falsely accusing him of trafficking his kids, or in how he feels he’s been blown off by the airline, “if this had been a white dad/mom with 2 little black kids, they would probably been offered an upgrade, not an interrogation.”

Airline and hotel employees are taught to use their prejudices to spot and report human trafficking, and this often works out badly. Flight attendants are told they need to be on the lookout, and you have to sympathize with the position that puts them in. Imagine if they didn’t say something when they could have stopped a bad situation? “Better safe than sorry” gives you situations like,

Here’s David Ray Harris on a flight with two of his kids:

See something, say something, when you’re encouraging amateurs to do it, leads to so many false positives that real cases of sex trafficking seem likely to get less attention. Employees think they are ‘trained’ when they’re really using their prejudices.

The L.A.-based guitarist and singer-songwriter, who has toured with Pearl Jam and performed with John Mayer, Dave Matthews, and Collective Soul, has five sons – and a daughter who now performs as rapper Baby Tate.

(HT: K.F.)

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, 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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  1. Then you have those idiots and their movie, based on hundreds of underground cities, tunnels and highways trafficking children. Ping Pong Pizza bozos, run amok.

  2. Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t. If the kids were being trafficked you be singing praises, but because they weren’t you shame the FA. Don’t know what you expect the police to do, they have a duty to investigate when called, they can’t just walk away.

    Maybe the bigger problem is the fact there is a huge child trafficking problem in the usa.

  3. AA’s FAs seem to be making a habit of these accusations, don’t they? I wonder if they get $$ or brownie points for doing it?
    In much the same way one should ask just how many terrorists have been caught by TSA, it rather begs the question how many REAL human traffickers have been caught due to AA’s FA’s vigilence?

  4. When you ask anyone, let alone amateurs, to report “suspicious” behavior you are going to have a lot of false positives even without bias. A society might decide that’s acceptable if the consequences missed incidents are say, a bombing, and if the burden falls on a group other than the majority. Not very fair even then but given I can’t even find that anyone keeps track of whether this reporting has resulting in any interceptions the balance of benefit vs cost seems out of whack. I’d imagine whoever thought this up felt it was a good idea because the cost to the government was zero, it was a good look for the airlines and neither they nor their friends were likely to be called out. BTW I’m a white male who is skeptical of a lot of what is labeled as racism but this program seems like the poster child for encouraging it. Maybe someone should arrange test runs of white women traveling with black children to see if they get pulled aside.

  5. @Arguendo. Something is wrong in the world when we have progressives damning a movie that says ***we need to do something to stop human trafficking***

    Back to the topic at hand. As a mixed-race family, these stories have caught my attention for years. It’s not so much Black vs White vs Asian vs Hispanic. A lot seem to simply come down to being a mixed race family. It would just go a LOOONG way if once things were found to be OK, authorities and airline personnel simply apologized, explained why they need to do it, apologize again, and maybe throw them some points or vouchers.

  6. Since some people don’t understand, and think he’s just against FAs, the problem isn’t the accusations. The problem is first of all the reasoning for the suspicion (that they can’t be his because they’re mixed race, when first that’s itself racist and second he isn’t even very dark pigment). The second problem is that A$$holic Airlines is always 100% unconditionally right, no matter how wrong they really are, and refuses to admit it, always standing behind their employee and justifying any actions they take (or don’t take).

  7. Maybe if AA didn’t have to be dragged in public and would actually apologize to the man for their actions, it wouldn’t be as big of an issue. The man even said all he wanted was an apology. But, I guess that’s too much for them. That’s what makes AA seem like racist Karens (as well as their sycophants here).

  8. In the wake of numerous public confessions by fallen politicians, sports figures, and business executives, in her book The Art of the Public Grovel, Susan Wise Bauer offers a helpful distinction: “An apology is an expression of regret: I am sorry. A confession is an admission of fault: I am sorry because I did wrong.

    An apology from the accusing party to the aggrieved party would cost nothing and might have softened the ruffled feathers. Accusing a parent (of any race) traveling with their own children as a potential sex trafficker is a serious charge. I understand the propensity to err on the side of caution, but when presented with the facts, a sincere apology should be rapidly forthcoming. It is not a confession that one did anything egregious.

  9. @andys

    and white people have a perpetual entitlement complex…and before you use the predictable answer, I’m white.

    And while I understand that you’d rather be on the safe side (for your own peace of mind) and report something you perceive as suspicious, there is nothing wrong in apologizing (which would likely resolve this situation), but businesses cannot fathom the risk of having to pay any compensation, especially if it comes at the expense of the bonuses of their poor executives.

  10. Rather than deciding there was a problem because the children did not engage with the FA, maybe the FA should have stood a couple of rows back and observed how the children interacted with the parent. It would be pretty damn easy to see a lack of ease IF children were being trafficked. That photo of dad and two of his sons is so totally relaxed with the most natural looking, happy children. Anyone with a modicum of common sense (and a lack of prejudice) would never think there was something amiss with this family.

    AA certainly seems to be working OT at taking actions that offend egalitarian principles. After experiencing a few incidents post-pandemic where I (a mature, white, blonde woman) was provided with advantages/services on flights that were denied to people of color sitting close to me in the same service class, AA stopped being my airline of choice. These were not major incidents. Just subtle differences in treatment that demonstrated obvious racism to an objective observer. Once would have been an anomaly. Twice was alarming. Three times seemed like a pattern. At number five, my level of disgust was palpable.

    There was a photo of a male FA on a post earlier today. He had no patience for a black teenager who was confused about how to find his seat and had him ejected from the flight. When I was seeing racist behavior repeatedly on AA flights, I was on a flight where that man was a FA. He was flat-out nasty to non-whites because he could be. When I saw that photo of him this morning, I thought, “He has been getting by with this obscene behavior for years. Why does AA not give a damn?”

  11. As a white father of two black children (and one indigenous and one mixed race), I can say that we have never been singled out by any flight attendant/airline, however, we have been singled out for extra scrutiny by border officials. Often, it is minor, asking them how they are related to us; a couple of times, it has meant additional screening (at US preclearance in Montreal coming back home and at Miami, also coming home). They absolutely look nothing like me, so I understand the questions and they come from people who are actually trained to recognize if something is wrong, although we haven’t had the issue with anyone but US border agents.
    In the case of this father, I would pick out his older son as his anywhere. The bias of the FA is obvious and I have to wonder how this hasn’t come up in relation to her before.

  12. No there is no racism in America. But there is a deep state conspiracy that involved several states and tens of thousands of people all to ensure that our country is taken over by a man who has dedicated his life to public service. Oh, and the woman caught on camera illegally vaping in a theater while giving her boyfriend a handjob is the victim of smear campaign.

    Did I get that right?

    Either Gary is waging a personal crusade against AA (doubtful) or there is something seriously wrong with the employees of this once fine airline.

  13. So glad I don’t fly American Airlines these days. I don’t need to be around flight attendants with such character defects.

  14. I guess this thread proves that there is absolutely no behavior from flight attendants that will cause their simps to stop defending them. At this point I am absolutely convinced that some meaningful percentage of flyers are buying seats on airplanes solely as part of some weird sex game where they get off on being humiliated by people as mentally insignificant as FAs. There doesn’t seem to be any other explanation for defending their actions even up to the point of “falsely accusing a man of horrible sex crimes based on his race.”

    To those commenters, please keep your fetishes to yourself. To all flight attendants everywhere, but especially the ones on American Airlines: SHUT UP AND POUR THE DRINKS.

  15. Why shouldn’t flight attendants, before reporting it to law enforcement, check the kids’ surnames on their company device and get the pilot to contact company to dig up more details on the PNR than their devices can access (such as the wife’s address)?

  16. If this passenger has “been loyal” to any corporation since 2004: He would know that the response he received (or lack there of) had ZERO to do with race and is just because they are bad at responding to complaints. Sadly, it takes incidents like these to get picked up by a popular blog or the media to get any attention from corporate comms these days. I’m white and AA and Marriott and Avis/Hertz/Hyatt/Chase/Amex/IHG/Discover and the rest ignore my complaint calls, forms, emails, and surveys too. He is not being especially ignored.

  17. Since I am leaving DAL, I am trying to decide between AAL and UAL for 2024. I am seeing so much talk about racism with one of those airlines, it is starting to help me decide.

  18. FA’s and pilots are generally given too much deference in comparison to what they actually do. It’s like asking a bus driver to flag potential traffickers. Entrusting these folks, who of course are providing important services with their particular competencies, to perform this kind of unrelated task just doesn’t make sense.

  19. Flight attendants should do what they are paid to do……. Make a safety announcement, serve drinks once and then hide in the galley and play candy crush on their phones. Stop profiling passengers!

  20. @Andys would you care to clarify your comment that “racism exists for a reason?” If not, I’m left to assume that you are just a horrible person who thinks you are better than other people just because of the color of your skin. Yet, you lack the courage to say it in-person to the faces people of different skin color, which just makes you a sad, pathetic, small-minded coward.

    Please show me that I have misjudged you. If I haven’t misjudged you I hope others have more empathy for you than you do for them.

  21. I have noticed one trend from AA and other airlines.

    As an executive platinum, they are quick to compensate for operational delays and never compensate or apologize for employee bad behavior. That is always kept in house.

    I’ve had one instance of egregiously bad flight attendant behavior that should have resulted in her immediate termination. I got a complete wall of silence on how or if the matter was disciplined or resolved and was denied any form of compensation. I’ve had one instance where baggage claim customer service was rude and insulting and kept wagging fingers in people’s face demanding respect and had no interest in doing her job

  22. So-called “Human trafficking” is overwhelmingly an artificial phenomenon that exists only in shrill news media and demagogic political speeches . . . but not in reality. Time to realize that this is all fake and an excuse to increase the US surveillance state, treat people badly, and get into their business.

  23. @Mak since your statement is easily provably bullsh*t, I have to wonder why you would stoop to trolling about such a serious matter. Get help.

  24. The big issue here is, “why?” What specific factors made the FA suspect child trafficking? If its simply that the children look different than their father, then that’s racist, pure and simple. In today’s polyglot world, you can’t go on that. You need something more. So, what was it? That’s the thing, we need to hear from the FA and American will never let that happen.

  25. These stories scare every mixed-race family, because we know we are one racist idiot away from a travel nightmare. If you have children, think for just a moment about how you would objectively prove that your children are actually yours. My guess is that you do not carry around a copy of their birth certificate just in case someone suggests you’re trafficking them. Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, most actual trafficking happens between people of the same race.

  26. @ Andy 11235

    You can get the US Passport CARD (Land Travel). It’s cheap and it’s a valid government photo ID of your kids that’s good for 5 years. And people can’t reject it. (Sure it’s for land travel, but on an airplane or cruise boat it won’t get you out of the country, but it’s still a valid government confirmation of who your kids are.)

    I’m not in a biracial relationship / parent and I got my son’s card at 2 months old. It’s also nice to have as proof of age too.

  27. American Airlines said after a 30 second interaction between the child and the FA, she determined she should call authorities as AA empowered her to make these decisions. While police have to have cause to search a house or vehicle, the FA is empowered since she watched a 5 minute video. LOL.

    Remember stranger danger..don’t talk to a stranger. The FA was a stranger and the child should never speak to her without knowing her. She called the authorities because the child was timid. It’s called a crazed controlled FA.

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