3 Black Passengers Sue Airline for Discrimination After They Were Removed from Flight Over Alleged Body Odor

The plaintiffs and 5 other passengers, all Black and male, were removed from the flight. The men didn't know each other and weren't seated together

<p>CBS Mornings</p> Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph and Xavier Veal

CBS Mornings

Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph and Xavier Veal

Three Black men have filed a federal lawsuit against American Airlines, claiming that employees removed them from a flight because of a body odor complaint.

According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, plaintiffs Alvin Jackson, Emmanuel Jean Joseph, and Xavier Veal were traveling from Phoenix to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Jan. 5, 2024, when they were allegedly kicked off Flight 832, “without any valid reason, based solely on their race.”

The complaint, which was filed Wednesday, May 29, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, claims that American Airlines “engaged in blatant and egregious race discrimination” when its employees removed Jackson, Joseph and Veal, along with five other Black male passengers, from the plane. The men were not traveling together and did not know one another.

American Airlines told PEOPLE in a statement, “We take all claims of discrimination very seriously and want our customers to have a positive experience when they choose to fly with us. Our teams are currently investigating the matter, as the claims do not reflect our core values or our purpose of caring for people.”

The lawsuit says that prior to takeoff, an airline representative approached each plaintiff and “ordered them off the plane immediately, without explanation.”

Per the suit, each of the plaintiffs complied, and it was once they reached the jet bridge that they realized that “several other Black men were also being removed from the plane.”

“In fact, it appeared to Plaintiffs that American had ordered all of the Black male passengers on Flight 832 off the plane,” reads the complaint.

When the eight men demanded an explanation from airline employees, they were allegedly told that that they were ordered off the plane “because of a complaint about body odor.”

Related: Musician David Ryan Harris Says American Airlines Accused Him of Trafficking His Biracial Kids

“Plaintiffs were not told that they personally had body odor, and in fact none of the Plaintiffs had offensive body odor,” the lawsuit says. “When Plaintiffs pointed out that it looked like they had been singled out because they were Black, at least one of the American representatives present at the time said, ‘I agree. I agree.’” The exchange was captured on video.

The plaintiffs were allegedly told that they and the other five passengers would be rebooked on a different flight. However, after about an hour, the airline’s staff allegedly told them that because there were no other available flights that evening, they could reboard their original plane.

The suit claims that the plaintiffs had to “endure the stares" of other passengers, who viewed them as the "cause of the substantial delay."

“They suffered during the entire flight home, and the entire incident was traumatic, upsetting, scary, humiliating, and degrading,” the filing alleges.

<p>Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty</p> American Airlines planes

Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty

American Airlines planes

Related: T.J. Holmes Says Another Passenger Accused Him of Stealing Her Phone During Flight With Amy Robach

The lawsuit also accuses American Airlines of having “a documented history of frequently subjecting Black passengers (and other passengers of color) to differential treatment and bigotry,” citing a 2017 NAACP travel advisory against the airline, which was lifted the following year.

The three men are seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at a jury trial.

The lawyer representing the plaintiffs, Sue Huhta, a partner at Outten & Golden, told CBS News that it seems "fairly apparent that race was part of this dynamic."

"It's almost inconceivable to come up with an explanation for that other than the color of their skin, particularly since they didn't know each other and weren't sitting near each other," said Huhta.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. 

Jackson and Joseph spoke about their experience in an interview with NBC News. 

“Being grouped and removed hits all these trigger points of things that I don’t think should happen to Black people anymore,” Jackson said.

Joseph, who said he has not flown since the incident, told NBC News,“It still affects me.”

He added,  “When I do get on a plane again, it’s going to be something that haunts me.”

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.