The founder of the pioneering miles and points blog Million Mile Secrets, now owned by The Points Guy parent Red Ventures, speaks his mind. Daraius Dubash is suing the city of Houston after being kicked out of a park for speaking out on animal cruelty. Over the summer he was also kicked off of an American Airlines flight in Austin for standing up for his principles.
As he describes it to me contemporaneously, he was removed from the aircraft after speaking up when he “witnessed a racist flight attendant kick off two black passengers” from an American Airlines flight. The airline called the police on Daraius and removed him from the aircraft. Six officers responded to the scene.
Daraius was taking a trip to Congaree National Park to hike for his birthday weekend. He was on a 6:15 a.m. departure to Charlotte out of Austin, connecting to Columbia, South Carolina.
During boarding he saw an African American family – a mother and father and teenagers – enter the aircraft. The teens “seemed a bit confused where they were sitting, and took perhaps an extra 30 to 60 secs to find their seat.”
The middle age white flight attendant kept giving the boys dirty glances, twitching his eyebrows, and then came up to the boy and asked him very haughtily if there was going to be a problem. He was a bit confused, and one said something to the effect of “I was looking for my seat.”
The flight attendant shook his head dismissively, did a “tsk tsk” and said something to the effect of “You’re not listening to me etc. That’s it!” and then walked with determination to the back of the plane, and I was pretty sure he was going to call the cockpit which he did….
An airline representative came on board to remove the young man. His mother left with him, while the father and other child stayed on board.
Daraius was talking to the passengers next to him in his row about what had happened, and and he took a photo of the flight attendant during the safety briefing to support a complaint he intended to file with the airline. The crewmember saw him take the photo, “and said don’t take more pictures of me.”
He did tell the flight attendant that he intended to file a complaint about what had happened, which is what got him removed from the aircraft. The flight attendant called up to the cockpit, and the pilot “announced that we were returning to the gate.”
Once again the same airline representative boarded, and asked Daraius to deplane. He pushed back and the whole aircraft was forced to get off the aircraft.
I said that I did nothing wrong and it was the flight attendant who seems to have the issues with his summoning people off the plane. After a bit of back and forth, she said if you don’t get off, we’ll have to deplane the entire plane. And I said that she could do what she wanted. So they announced that the plane would de-board. The boy’s dad (who was in front of me) then tells me that his wife texted him that a posse of cops had arrived at the gate and were waiting for me!
His seatmates were airline employees and spoke to the waiting officers on his behalf.
As we got off the plane the AA rep pointed me to the cops, and the cop asked if I was the one who wasn’t getting off the plane. I replied that I’m out of the plane and de-planed with everyone else. So they separated me and interviewed my seat mates and the boys and their parents. They eventually found that there wasn’t anything criminal going on. I appreciate that the lead officer said that it was a customer service issue and the posse of 5 or 6 of them went along.
And the blogger was rebooked onto the next flight out, since he’d been kicked off the airline wasn’t going to put him back on board the flight that had long since missed a D0 on-time departure.
While Daraius adds, “I still think that the process of Captains listening to [flight attendants] without any independent investigation is just rife for abuse,” as I’ve explained 49 USC § 44902 provides broad latitude, within certain bounds laid out by the FAA, for the captain of an aircraft to refuse transportation to a passenger if they feel that passenger might be “inimical to safety.”
A pilot’s decision cannot be arbitrary or capricious – but that’s not the same as saying it has to be reasonable! It’s generally presumed that the actions of the pilot are reasonable, and judged based on facts the pilot was aware of at the time and the time constraints they’re under.
- If they’re given only one side of the story, and it’s incomplete
- And they make a decision based on that information
- And they’re in a rush to get the plane out
- That’s probably going to be fine under the law
So if the captain felt that a passenger could be a safety risk solely because a flight attendant told them a passenger was a security risk (whether the flight attendant’s view was reasonable or not), they’re probably within their rights to kick you off the plane. The pilot, in a hurry to transport passengers, isn’t held to a high standard of investigation.
That doesn’t seem fair here. It sounds like the flight attendant was unreasonable in the first place. Perhaps they didn’t sleep well before the 6:15 a.m. departure. And taking offense at criticism just doubled down on the issue. Too many crewmembers get their back up when their authority isn’t respected.
Here’s video of the police, acting professionally while acknowledging that it was improper for American Airlines to involve them, saying that this was a customer service issue – and expressing concern over how events unfolded.