Posted by Ryan Suto on August 23, 2019 in Blog

Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, “Airline Consumer Protections: Information on Selected Airlines’ Non-Discrimination Training Programs” pursuant to an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 for which the Arab American Institute (AAI) successfully advocated. AAI has long worked with Congressional partners to address airline discrimination and has held events on Capitol Hill highlighting the issue.

Yesterday’s report notes that the GAO met with AAI, along with three other advocacy organizations, in part because of AAI’s “expertise examining racial non-discrimination issues and recommendations.” The report found 828 total complaints from airline passengers of discrimination from 2009 - 2018. Of those, 249, or about 30%, were complaints of discrimination based on ethnicity, ancestry, or national origin.  While airlines generally include non-discrimination training to their employees, including implicit bias training, little information is available about the content of those trainings as the report correctly notes. Further, the specific recommendations for non-discrimination training for airlines are a welcome recommendation.  

The GAO report is a first step toward addressing the systemic airline discrimination faced by Arab Americans and other communities. With its release, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is required to develop and disseminate non-discrimination best practices to airlines in consultation with passengers of diverse backgrounds and national organizations that represent impacted communities. We will continue to assist in the process so that the decades of discrimination faced by Arab Americans when attempting to travel, including increased screening, security delays, and even being removed from flights for merely speaking Arabic, are a thing of the past. This report is important in showing the data behind those experiences, and will allow the federal government to provide the appropriate oversight that airlines need to address discrimination in air travel.