American settles discrimination charges

WASHINGTON -- American Airlines agreed to spend at least $1.5 million on civil rights training for its flight and cabin crews and customer service personnel.

The move was made to settle Transportation Department charges that the airline discriminated against Arab, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian passengers in the wake of 9/11.

The DOT began an enforcement action against the carrier last April alleging 11 incidents of discrimination when passengers were denied boarding or removed from AA flights, seemingly because of their ethnic background, in the months after the terrorist attacks.

American had denied that any of the actions were discriminatory and had said that in many instances the passengers were detained for problems relating to their documentation or conduct rather than their ethnic status. Some were accommodated on later flights when the questions were resolved.

In the settlement offer, the airline did not admit to any wrongdoing but agreed to the training expenditure over a three-year period to avoid further litigation.

It also agreed to share its training materials with the DOT, which is separately contracting with an outside firm to develop a technical assistance manual and model training program for airline employees about federal nondiscrimination law.

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