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American Airlines and Discrimination

So, people are telling me that this is a first world problem and I don’t think so.

On my flight through L.A. today from Toronto, I upgraded to business class since the upgrade was the same price as my overweight luggage!  I’d at least get the wider seat and access to the lounge on the 4 hour layover.

So I arrived in L.A. and took the bus to gates 44A to L in an execrable terminal with vending machines and one small food vendor.  Anyway, I thought I’d have a better seat in the lounge and free coffee but NO.

Despite my business class ticket I don’t qualify for lounge access.  Why? Here’s the quote:

“We don’t let any Canadians or Mexicans in the lounge.  That’s our policy.”

I told them that was an amazingly discriminatory policy and left.

I steamed outside and went back and asked what class of ticket did allow Canadians or Mexicans in their lounge. They said ‘None”.  I suppose basing it on national origin helps guard them against charges of racism, etc.

So there it is.  Systemic discrimination and appalling customer service.

I find it more interesting that several people responded to my tweet that:

1. I was being elitist.  My response is that asking to receive what I had paid for is not elitist just sane.

2. This is a first world problem.  Amazing! It was probably tongue in cheek. I am privileged to live in the so-called first world. That doesn’t exempt first world businesses from laws against discriminating against people based on their national origin.

3. I should just suck it up and that the issue of discrimination based on national origin, race, language, creed, gender, orientation isn’t my issue.  Really? Really! An appalling point of view that possibly thinks that only those minorities or others directly affected by discrimination can comment or work to correct the inequity.

I disagree as respectfully as I can to these points of view.

It is everyone’s responsibility to call out discrimination.  And to write a letter. And to sue when necessary.  Rolling over and playing dead because that’s the way things are and you’re privileged so you should ignore it is not what I believe.

American Airlines will get a letter.  It’s unlawful and unconstitutional to discriminate on the basis of national origin (and race, language, creed, gender, orientation) in Canada.  They sold me a ticket in Canada and should try to obey the law.  I shouldn’t have to listen to AA employees halfway through my trip on their airline tell me in public that they do not admit Canadians or Mexicans (although they’ll sell them the ticket without all the privileges they give to tickets from the U.S.

However since letters are slow and poorly responded to in my experience I am posting this to my blog, tweeting it, and adding it to my Facebook, etc.  Some airlines monitor this social media stuff and respond quickly.  We’ll see.

On the optimistic side, I am always looking for cautionary stories about customer service and policies for my speeches, workshops and keynotes.  I got a new one!


Posted on: October 25, 2014, 5:36 pm Category: Uncategorized