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Did American Airlines Charge an “African American” Fee to Flyers?

Did American Airlines Charge an “African American” Fee to Flyers?
Joe Cortez

A pair of Charlotte-based flyers claimed they were the targets of discrimination after paying for luggage prior to a trip aboard American Airlines. Photos shared by the flyers on social media show they received an “African American” service fee – but the debit card provider calls it a major mistake.

An American Airlines flyer claims she was a target of discrimination, after receiving an “African American” charge after paying for her luggage. Charlotte Fox affiliate WJZY-TV reports the charge showed up on an online banking app shortly after making the luggage payment – but the airline claimed to know nothing about the charge.

How an “African American” Fee Showed Up From a Luggage Charge

Kyetra Bryant and her boyfriend were traveling on Thanksgiving Day 2020 aboard American out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT). During check-in, the pair bought checked luggage using separate debit cards from a self-service kiosk and boarded without incident.

After checking her bank account two days later, Bryant said she found a strange charge on her account. According to her story and images later shared on social media, the luggage charge showed up as “African American Service” charge. Moreover, she says the charges on her boyfriend’s bank account read the same.


“I have a screenshot here on two different phones and a computer, and it says it’s from American Charlotte,” Bryant told WJZY. “And I want to know why it’s listed this way?”

For over two months, Bryant made multiple inquiries between American and Capital One, her bank. Both parties blamed the other for the way the charge read, with the airline squarely blaming Capital One for the offensive wording.

“We were disturbed by what we saw and immediately launched an investigation to understand what occurred,” read a statement from the airline to WJZY. “Our team members are unable to change text when processing a charge and we’ve determined the issue originated with the credit card company and bank issuer. We reached out to Mastercard who confirmed that American submitted the baggage fee information correctly during the payment process.”

In a subsequent statement published by the station, Capital One confirmed that “…this technical issue is the miscoding of a merchant’s name,” and was completely unrelated to the flyer. Bryant is still blaming American for the issue, and is requesting an apology from the Fort Worth-based airline.

“There’s really no justification. We definitely felt targeted,” Bryant told WJZY. “That’s an instance of racial bias.”

Accusations Come Despite American’s Support for “Equity and Inclusion”

The claims against American come after the carrier was one of the first to publicly support the “Black Lives Matter” movement. In September 2020, after consulting their Black Professional Network employee group, the company allowed employees to wear pins in support of the cause on their uniforms.

View Comments (16)


  1. rstruthe

    February 4, 2021 at 4:38 am

    The article is quite clear this had nothing to do with American airlines. It was a mistake by Capital One.
    Maybe you should make that clear in the article??

  2. gojko88


    February 4, 2021 at 5:42 am

    A typical non-issue that only US media will give coverage to. Anyone with an IQ over 70 realises that this is an IT error of some kind and not intentional.

  3. 50ae

    February 4, 2021 at 3:04 pm

    So AA had nothing to do with it yet they feel they deserve an apology from AA.

    The headline alone is damage enough to AA. Maybe flyertalk needs to apologize to AA instead.

  4. SamirD

    February 4, 2021 at 3:12 pm

    So were they flying to Africa? If so, there might be a separately billable ‘African’ charge from the country/customs/etc that would be line itemed by American and then posted as xxx American Airlines Service charge. Easy way to check is if there are other country/continent service charges–Chinese Service Charge, Asian Service Charge, Indian Service Charge, Fijian Service Charge, etc. If so, then this is simply a systematic mistake that had no ill intent behind it. And when people see something innocent like this, they should understand it as such and help rectify the error versus try to profit off of it.

  5. strickerj

    February 4, 2021 at 4:51 pm

    So Capital One confirmed this was a glitch, and the passenger is still convinced this is an “instance of racial bias” and will never again fly American as a result? Ok then…

    How would a customer service agent who wishes to target this customer even be able to manipulate the name of the merchant to appear that way? Nothing about this makes any sense.

  6. vargha

    February 4, 2021 at 4:52 pm

    Well, some people go through life being offended at everything. If that’s the most difficult thing they faced for the week, then it was a pretty easy week.

  7. DeltaFlyer123

    February 4, 2021 at 6:01 pm

    It’s probably a rogue IT guy buried somewhere in the airline or credit card chain.

  8. gum

    February 4, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    Thanks @vargha for the great comment. The passengers should be really lucky for their perfect life when a simple coding issue is inflated to a mega issue.

  9. arabiamark

    February 5, 2021 at 12:44 am

    Unfortunately these kinds of people are winning elections and are presently in power in DC

  10. htb

    February 5, 2021 at 4:59 pm

    I think their bank should apologize and make a better effort at explaining how this could happen and which steps where taken to avoid reoccurrence.

  11. WillCAD


    February 6, 2021 at 4:17 am

    If Capital One is correct and this is just an IT glitch and not some racist clerk playing a disgusting prank… Worst. Autocorrect. Ever.

    There was a time when I’d dismiss an incident like this as obviously an IT glitch (AA means American Airlines, but a lot of people also use AA to mean African American, so it’s certainly conceivable that a computer system somewhere did a poor autocorrect on the letters AA).

    Today, however, with bigotry of all kinds being openly displayed in almost every aspect of our society, and even celebrated in many places, I’m not so quick to believe stupidity over malice. Malice has become de rigueur, and our society is suffering mightily for it.

  12. MEaton

    February 6, 2021 at 11:45 am

    This was clearly not an AA issue. It was 99% more likely a MasterCard/Capital error programing issue. Or was it really an error? SamirD made an excellent point. This may have simply been an innocent coding error. I personally think it was a wiseguy somewhere at MC or CapOne, In either case, I think someone wants free AA tickets. If you look hard enough, long enough, you can find some type of remotely offense comment, wording, gesture, or style. Good luck with the Ticket Quest…

  13. Polar Man

    February 7, 2021 at 4:57 pm

    Never ascribe to malice that which can be described as incompetence……
    Unless you are in a litigious society society

  14. Asknorm

    February 8, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    WillCAD gets it and recognizes why those who discount this as an IT glitch have never had to deal with a situation that was tinged with race.

  15. sunil

    February 10, 2021 at 5:32 pm

    C1 and AA should apologize and move one. Hopefully lawyers don’t try to squeeze them for compensation.

  16. ryan754

    February 11, 2021 at 3:17 am

    It was a luggage fee 😂 they are staying they got a African American charge. No was the luggage fee they agreed to pay 🤦🏼‍♂️. Yes there was some glitch. Zero apologies owed from anyone. Just like if I got a White American charge in a Bogotá or South Africa. Who cares. If I owned AA. I’d ban their asses for no reason just because this is not the customer I want.

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