Pioneering Travel Blogger Kicked Off American Airlines For Speaking Out Against Racism

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.

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. My comment is probably going to be unpopular with some, but BRAVO for standing up to blatant racism.

  2. We all have a 1st Amendment right to film people and events occurring in public places. The inside of an aircraft operated by a common carrier is certainly a public place, so there should be no prohibition against filming cabin crew, any more than there should be a prohibition against filming police. Cabin Crew are not above the law, despite their belief to such an entitlement.

  3. The line between brave and stupid is razor-thin most of the time. Seems to me that Mr. Dubash straddled the line a lot—he certainly should have taken the FA’s photo for a complaint, but he did himself and everyone else on the plane a disservice by effectively provoking the FA. Based on the description, it’s clear the FA was looking to flex his power and stomp on anyone that defied him.

    Would have been far better for all involved to take the photo and submit the complaint after the flight. That makes me think that Mr. Dubash is more of an attention seeker than a hero.

  4. Wow. So much to unpack here, for starters I’m very impressed with the Police Officers in Austin (my home and the airport that I use). So professional and courteous, I love these guys ! It also involves my favorite carrier (American), which has overwhelmingly nice FA’s, but I’ve read enough stories that they have a very small minority of awful FA’s in their ranks (I’ve never met one). On balance, it seems that American’s policy of the Pilot speaking only with the FA involved is fundamentally flawed, and that virtually all of these incidents could be resolved with a 45 second confab in the Jetway between the Pilot, FA, Accused Passenger, and a 3rd-Party Witness (selected by the Accused Passenger, if they wish). American already has a bright future in seizing the #1 Domestic Airline spot with Delta’s recent self-forced error in their Skypeso’s depreciation, fixing this issue could seal the deal.

  5. Tuntil both sides of the story are told its very hard to determine what was fair and who or whom is truly at fault. Considering the minute the word racism is invoked journalists always default to the easy which is always left of middle without doing a full jurnalistic investigation and staying neutral.

  6. No evidence was presented that the flight attendant was racist. This is a card that is so often overplayed it’s become the “cry wolf” of its day. It so happens that the family is African American but that in and of itself doesn’t mean the FA’s action was racist. It would appear that FA was simply on a power trip and had zero patience. We don’t know if the African American family was targeted for its race, or they just happen to be in the convenient path of this overly assertive FA.

    The protestor, Daraius Dubash, was also removed and he is not African American.

    This particular flight attendant would seem to have a short circuit. It’s unfortunate that unprofessional flight attendants can cause such mishap. It may not be racism, but it would appear to definitely be a case of over reaction and abuse of power.

  7. An honest question…who defines what is and is not racist? I’ll tell you why I ask.

    It seems like the very people who often dismiss accusations of racism as people of color “playing the race card” or “being too sensitive” are often the very same people trying to legislate against things they find offensive that others do not.

    Sad thing is, it’s another day with another example of how AA does not seem to be able to handle customer services issues with any modicum of respect and sensitivity. You never hear about things like this on Southwest, Jet Blue or Delta and rarely hear about it on United. Kind of makes you wonder why it is always happening on AA and not similar carriers.

  8. Why some people love to talk with out the popper information???
    Do we really know what happened between the boy and the F.A.???
    Why did the mom get off the plane, but the Father and the brother didn’t???
    Why did the F.A. get mad with the guy taking photos???
    What was the conversation they both had, making the F.A. so mad to force him to be deplaned???
    Way to many questions and only one side of the story.
    In the last few years, passengers have become more “demanding” and flight attendants less tolerant, and in many cases, some Pax tend to abuse or try to abuse of the F.A.
    When we get both sides of the story, we will be able to understand and take sides.

  9. Daraius Dubash was certainly looking for a confrontation. Never show your cards until you have to turn them over. He could have easily filmed the flight attendant in the safety demonstration if he kept his mouth shut and also captured the flight attendant demonstrating safety procedures. Then if they come over, butter them up with how good of a job they did and you are going to review it later. Having the instruction card out probably helps. You maybe could get a selfie with them, too, with a clear view of the name tag. You can hit them with the lawsuit later. Plus, when you get off, you can talk with the father and other child. This whole situation was very clumsy, disruptive of the other passengers and not very effective. He may have a problem with any lawsuit.

  10. He sounds like a jerk. Making the whole plane disembark because he refuses to leave should result in a hefty fine/airline ban.

  11. It speaks volumes that Daraius is fixated at the skin color and age of the flight attendant instead of appraising the situation on merit.
    So yes, Daraius is the racists here.

  12. SJW’s interjecting themselves into situations on aircraft seldom ends well. IF there was provable racism (highly unlikely given the situation) then the victims will get rich via a s. 1983 claim. On a side lane full of folks out of AUS of all places, he’s the only one who picks up on distinct and overt racism? Getouttahere.

    On AA in particular, I think many sjw’s have trouble internalizing that AA staff are routinely nasty to EVERYONE and when they see a POC on the receiving end of this it triggers them.

    Given this and the H-town incident, seems to me ol’ bowtie boy may be experiencing mh issues. Hopefully he can fight the stigma and get the help he needs.

  13. I see nothing in this article that supports a claim of racism. I’ve seen the same treatment used with white people. Based on the article, the FA was certainly a jerk; American seems to have a little more than its share. If I witnessed real racism I’d be calling the flight attendant out too. After flying 5 million miles on American, I’ve observed that much of the traveling public loses half their brain when flying. It’s likely this young man was very unfamiliar with seating—and the flight attendant failed to do his job of politely directing him to his seat.

  14. The Captain is not in a position to make a judgement based solely on input from the FA. He (or she)has little choice but to simply accept what the FA tells him and return to the gate.
    The Captain simply has to accept the FA’s version, who is saying he is uncomfortable with a passenger on board and feels it’s unsafe to continue . The Captains best option is to let the ground staff sort it out back at the gate. Not second guess what happened without having seen it.

  15. Something is seriously wrong with this “look at me daddy” clown.

    First its annoying people in a peaceful park and now he’s the sole judge, jury and arbiter of what constitutes “racism”.

    Apparently he’s got too much money and misses the limelight desperately.

    Yet “you people” continue to praise him endlessly for his “pictures with circles and arrows” that prematurely ended deals. The police used “pictures with circles and arrows” to unfairly persecute Arlo Guthrie too…

  16. Oh my. This is the very same flight attendant whom I saw allow some European-American c. 5-6year old kids to use the forward lavatory with European-American parents while the curtain was open before and after he stopped a “brown” 3 year old from doing the same with his “brown” parent.

  17. @Mark, although airlines do NOT prohibit recording/filming, they would have every legal right too since the inside of an aircraft is considered a private space. Most airports and terminal areas or are public spaces however.

  18. The FA should sue him for defamation. And shame on this website for posting a picture of the FA next to a completely unsubstantiated allegation of racism. Nothing in this incident indicates racially motivated actions by the FA.

  19. @Gary – Do you think after enough D0 misses they’ll eventually investigate, figure out that it’s this FA causing them all, and punish him accordingly? Would this even qualify as a D0 miss since it sounds like they had to return to the gate and therefore may have made the initial D0?

    I don’t hold out much hope, but it would be a silver lining to their obsession with D0 if they punished this FA that’s clearly in the wrong job.

  20. Gosh! This is happening almost everyday of the week. When you walk on any U.S. registered airliner these days you are no longer in what we believe
    America to be. Since September 11th albeit 22 years ago flight attendants have become so emboldened! I for one will no longer fly within the 50 states and if an international trip will not fly on any U.S. carrier because of BS like in this story!

  21. There is a time and a place for everything. I am sick and tired of the racism BS. If Daraius Dubash wants to make noise and a fashion statement, let him do it someplace other than an airliner.

  22. “The teens seemed a bit confused where they were sitting”

    What does this mean? Sometimes someone uses the term of “confuse/confusing/confused” referring people under influence of drugs.

    Was he implying those young men taking drugs in an obscure way? What was the real situation happening at the moment? There are so many facts not being told.

  23. This guy is a POS. Refused to get off so the entire plane had to deplane. Bottom line is FA / Captain kicks you off the plane you got to go, not the time to make a stand.

    Surprised I didn’t see anything in the article about demanding reparations… thank god I don’t live in California.

  24. Yet another case of people in positions of authority escalating rather than de-escalating a problem. Why don’t flight attendants get training?

  25. I don’t understand any of this. I’ve sat in the wrong seat twice this year, already, on DL (Somehow I get one row off.) I flew four flights on AA with no issues. Actually, a lot of domestic boarding small talk makes zero sense to me: all I want are two things: a breathylizer-type hello to ascertain that I am neither drunk nor high, and a sincere acknowledgement of my loyalty status. All the rest of small talk, including yelling into cell phones, “honey I’m on the plane. Are you still at Cinnabon?” I try to ignore, as much as possible and could do without.

  26. Geez, what goes on now cause everyone thinks their crow is the blackest and that’s not a dig at race.

  27. I met Darius a few times many yrs ago at the Flyertalk seminars. A nice mild mannered guy. I think in this case he should not have said anything and merely reported what he saw via email or something. Generally I think some FA are wound a bit tight. Going back to the gate?
    Taking the picture was a bad idea. I didnt quite understand the situation in the park.

  28. Pioneering now irrelevant blogger is a total jerk to inconvenience a plane full of people to draw some virtue signalling to himself. Daraius is the racist here obviously, and a great example of diluting the meaning of the word.

  29. Realistically, the pilot is going to take the word of the FAs–it’s simply not practical for them to do any real investigation without delaying things horrendously. They complain, you’re off the plane. However, if it’s unjust you take it up with the airline, in court if need be.

  30. Another flight attendant who forgot to SHUT UP AND POUR THE DRINKS, another set of commenters who seem to have some sort of humilitation fetish showing up to defend being abused by the worst workforce in America.

  31. How to we not know that the FA in question does not self-identify as “black” ?

    Wouldn’t that remove any questions of possible “racism”? Racist of Daraius to assume he’s old & white based upon the color of his skin, no?

    Later this year I’m going to self-identify as a 12 year old boy. Watch for me in the 2024 Little League World Series next August, I’ll be setting all kinds of new records and getting tons of TV time!

    Daraius belongs in jail.

  32. Given the 99% hyperbolic “racism” accusation, I give it a 99% probability that the FA kicked those people off for good reason. They were probably a bunch of rude, nasty thugs who deserved to get kicked off the plane. That would be my guess. I’d like to hear from the FA and from several of the witnesses who were sitting and standing nearby.

  33. I agree 100% with Tony W. I wish I had a card to play everytime I didnt get a promotion, was being treated badly, or any other negative thing that happened in my life. I too would like to hear other versions of the story because I don’t think this had anything to do with race!

  34. I’m a flight attendant and completely agree racism should not be tolerated. With that being said, any FA should get another FA to help with a problematic situation, and the captain should talk to both to get a feel for the situation. Also if there is a communication issue, you get another attendant to smooth it over. There is a problem with adults ‘following crewmember instructions” so a captain needs to back us up. This situation sounds like the attendant was annoyed and made it a far greater issue than need be. You should never deplane without trying to calm everything down first. Manners and common sense really solve most problems

  35. Can’t wait until Darius writes a detailed blog post about it with dozens of circles and arrows. That’s all he was good for back in the day. Always making himself the center of everything. Finally got back in the travel blog headlines again. How he handled this was not correct…just wanted confrontation. That rarely solves anything. Glad he sold out and disappeared.

  36. If Rosa Parks has kept her mouth shut nothing would have ever changed.

    What people who have never experienced an “-ism” or “-obia” don;t seem to understand is that change doesn’t occur by keeping your mouth shut. All that gets you is more of the same old hate and intolerance. There comes a point when people have just had enough. Many of us are there and we are NOT going to sit back and not speak up when we see an injustice.

    I am not saying this flight attendant was or was not racist, but Darius’s decision to speak truth to power does not make him the problem. And, you know what, sometimes doing what’s right often means some people get inconvenienced. It’s a reminder of what some people deal with all the time.

  37. If he wanted to travel, he should have refrained from entering what appeared to be an already disruptive situation.

  38. @SOBE ER DOC

    People like you have such a persecution complex that comes from your extreme success and race envy.

  39. Why do we post these stories with only half the information known? Shouldn’t we do a little more research and get both sides of the story. We don’t know what happened between the FA and passengers. Perhaps we should find out before using the already “overused “ racist word.

  40. Daraius is a great guy. Thanks to him I got a super-cheap flight to South Africa years ago. And he was even on the flight!

    He is a great American for speaking out about what he saw — and American Airlines should be ashamed.

    As one comment noted above: “If Rosa Parks has kept her mouth shut nothing would have ever changed.”

  41. Daraius was a pretty insufferable travel blogger, and the only one that was generally disliked by the community.

    No idea if the events happened exactly as he stated, but I’m generally inclined to call bullshit. Just based on the source.

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