Dana Holcomb was heading back to Austin, Texas, after celebrating his 53rd birthday in Las Vegas back in April when he was booted from an American Airlines connector flight so the airline could reportedly accommodate a service animal.
Now, the Killeen, Texas, resident is suing the airline, claiming racial discrimination, according to KWTX.
“Dana was taken off an airplane so a dog could fly first-class cabin,” Holcomb’s attorney, Reginald McKamie, Sr., told reporters.
On Holcomb’s return home to Texas, he boarded an American Airlines connecting flight in Phoenix.
As he sat in first class, a woman with a service animal sat next to him.
After he had an allergic reaction to the animal the passenger with the service dog offered to switch seats with someone else in the cabin, but no one volunteered to move.
Holcomb claims he was then asked to move to the back of the plane by a pilot and flight attendant.
“At that point [workers] told him you’re going to go to the rear of the plane or get off the plane,” McKamie said.
Although the lawsuit includes sworn statements from two passengers that support Holcomb’s claim, the airline said he was taken off the plane after he was confrontational with airline staff.
“What American Airlines is doing is discrimination,” McKamie continued. “They have repeatedly humiliated African-Amerian citizens by throwing them off the plane, leaving them with no way home, no hotel, just throwing them off the plane.”
Holcomb said he was left without his luggage or medicine when he was removed from the plane, and he had to figure out a way home.
He ended up staying in a hotel for the night and taking a Delta flight home the next day.
“Mr. Holcomb’s seat was next to a customer with an emotional support animal. In an effort to accommodate Mr. Holcomb, the customer with the emotional support animal offered to switch seats with another customer so Mr. Holcomb could remain in his seat. Mr. Holcomb wasn’t satisfied with that solution, so he was given the option of a seat further away from the service animal in the main cabin with a refund in the difference in fare, which he also declined.”
The statement continued, “After all the attempts to accommodate Mr. Holcomb were declined and he refused to comply with crew member instructions, he was removed from the plane. Our team offered to rebook Mr. Holcomb and refunded his first-class ticket. Amerian has not received [a] lawsuit but once we do we will review it and respond in court when appropriate.”
In 2017, data compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated that 29 passengers had filed complaints of racial discrimination against American Airlines over the course of 20 months.
That data prompted the NAACP to issue a travel advisory for Black passengers flying American Airlines, citing four incidents that “suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias.”
Hashtags like #Happened2MeOnAA and #FlyingWhileBlack began trending after multiple racial discrimination reports.
AA’s CEO, Doug Parker, responded to the accusations at the time, saying, “Discrimination, exclusion and unconscious biases are enormous problems that no one has mastered, and we would never suggest that we have it all figured out either. We want to keep learning and we want to be even better.”
(Photo: Brandon Hamilton)