A guitarist who has played with John Mayer and Dave Matthews accused an American Airlines employee of racial profiling after he and his biracial children were met by police officers at their destination and told that a flight attendant reported a possible child-trafficking risk.
David Ryan Harris says after spending eight days attempting to get clarity on the issue through traditional channels, he chose to share his story on social media. In a series of videos posted to Instagram, he said that the flight attendant was concerned after his youngest son, who is 7, didn’t respond to a question.
The flight attendant had asked both kids, who had woken up before 5 a.m. to catch their flight, their names. When the youngest didn’t respond, the flight attendant apparently flagged the family.
“I wanted to go through the roof, but I did not want my kids to see me handle the situation with anything other than grace and class,” Harris explained. Once he was at his destination, Harris called the airline and submitted a complaint online.
In another post on Instagram, Harris wrote, “I don’t care what you say, if this had been a white dad/mom with 2 little black kids, they would probably been offered an upgrade, not an interrogation.”
The musician has flown with the airline since 2004, but says he is deeply disappointed. He also took issue with how the concern about trafficking was relayed, and noted that perhaps the responsibility to report these concerns should fall to TSA agents and not flight attendants.
Amerian Airlines responded, “At American, the safety and security of our customers and team members are our top priorities. We strive to create a positive, welcoming environment for everyone who travels with us and apologize for any misunderstanding that may have occurred. … A member of our team has reached out to the customer to learn more about their experience and address their concerns.”
Harris also noted that an agent contacted him and the pair spoke for 20 minutes and specifically addressed the fact that, as he put it, “most children” will look at their parents before replying to a stranger.
In the end, Harris was offered 10,000 frequent flyer miles, which he said is fewer than people earn when they open an American Airlines credit card.