Woman says American Airlines barred her from flight as they ‘didn’t like her tone of voice’

‘Tone policing is discriminatory. Calling the police on someone who asks to speak to management is problematic,’ says New York educator

Lucy Thackray
Thursday 11 August 2022 15:45 BST
American Airlines customers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
American Airlines customers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (Getty Images)

A woman has accused American Airlines staff of barring her from boarding a flight as they “didn’t like her tone of voice”.

Kyleema Norman tweeted on Sunday (7 August) about her experience when catching an AA flight from LaGuardia Airport, New York, to Grenada in the Caribbean.

Ms Norman, who is Black, called the interaction with one airline manager an “outrage of racism”.

“BANNED from boarding American three-hour-delayed flight because I spoke up!” Ms Norman wrote on Twitter.

A deputy superintendent at New Visions school in Brooklyn, she was travelling with her daughter, Bobbie.

“All the other passengers except my daughter and I were allowed to fly. What an OUTRAGE. Why was I banned, because [the] manager at LaGuardia for American Airlines didnt like my TONE,” she wrote on the social media platform.

She alleges that the AA manager on duty had called Port Authority after saying that Ms Norman’s tone was “a threat”.

Ms Norman told the New York Post that she had voiced her frustration with the airline delay “in my teacher voice”, but denied being aggressive in any way.

“We’re not trying to start a riot,” she told reporters. “I didn’t curse him, threaten him, show bodily harm or make a scene.”

She alleges that the manager on duty said: “Your tone at 35,000 feet — I don’t think I’d be able to trust you’d be safe in the air with a pilot and other people.”

On Twitter, she added: “He said my TONE was a threat! He denied me from rebooking my flight and denied giving me my bag after the helpful Port Authority police tried to get my bag from the plane. Boycott American Airline.”

Ms Norman had been due to travel to Grenada as a graduation present for her daughter, arranged by her husband, she added. Ms Norman accused the airline manager of racism due to the encounter.

On Monday, she posted a short clip of the interaction with airline staff to her Twitter feed, saying: “At which point do I look like a threat to anyone’s safety?”

“Who knew the gift would be her watching me getting banned from our flight on American Airlines and witnessing the outrage of racism,” she continued in her thread.

Her daughter told the New York Post: “She advocated for everyone, but she is not allowed to get on the plane because the person who pretended to help didn’t like her ‘tone’.”

On Wednesday, after the tweet had gained widespread attention online, Ms Norman updated her followers saying she had been “subjected to court of public opinion while waiting for AAs response”.

“More abuse. When a Black woman uses the word race she’s a Black Karen??? So Sad!” she wrote.

“Tone policing is discriminatory. Calling the police on someone who asks to speak to [management] is PROBLEMATIC.”

An American Airlines spokesperson confirmed that flight 1249 was delayed from 5.59am to 10am on 7 August due to a maintenance issue.

“We take all claims of discrimination seriously and have opened an internal investigation into the issue,” they said.

“Our Customer Relations team is actively engaged with Ms. Norman to learn more and to apologize for her family’s recent travel experience.”

In March, a Black woman said she was “humiliated” after Delta Airlines asked her to move to the back of the plane on a recent flight to make room for two white women.

Camille Henderson was travelling from Atlanta to San Francisco on 3 February when she alleges a flight attendant told her to move from her assigned seat.

A Delta spokesperson told The Independent at the time: “Delta does not tolerate discrimination in any form, and these allegations run counter to our deeply-held values of respecting and honouring the diversity of our customers.

“While the intention of our flight crew was to provide a comfortable experience for all, we understand the sensitivities at play and sincerely apologise for this customer’s experience.

“As always, we appreciate such feedback so that we may continue to learn and improve.”

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