The NAACP has joined the chorus of air travelers expressing anger at how they’re treated by airlines.

This week the advocacy group listed five instances, which it says may illustrate racial bias by American Airlines. Among them it says a pilot kicked an African-American woman off a flight after she complained to a gate agent about having her seating assignment changed without her consent.

The issue of passenger mistreatment by airlines reached crisis level this summer when a video of a man, Dr. David Dao, went viral on social media. It showed him being violently removed from a United Airlines flight.

Since then, passengers have taken to social media when they feel mistreated by airlines, and advocates have renewed calls for stronger rules to protect all passengers.

“All travelers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm,” Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP said in a statement.

In a call with investors on Thursday, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said he is looking forward to meeting with the NAACP and that discrimination, exclusion and unconscious biases are enormous problems that no one has mastered. “We are not so arrogant to suggest that we have it all figured out,” he said.

How to File a Discrimination Complaint

If you believe you have been discriminated against due to age, race, sex, religion, or national origin by an airline, you can file a complaint with the Department of Transportation, which monitors and investigates violations of consumer protections and civil rights for airline passengers.

It's unclear if the DOT has received complaints from American Airlines passengers or if it's looking into the NAACP's allegations. A spokesperson for the DOT was not immediately available for comment for this report.

If an incident involves violence or the use of force by law enforcement, as was the case with Dr. Dao, victims are encouraged to contact their local FBI field office to make a report.

The NAACP also is asking passengers to alert the group if they feel they've been discriminated against by any airlines. 

Know Your Rights

In addition to allegations of possible racial discrimination, there's been a lot of attention this year on customer mistreatment by the airlines. As nonpremium travel becomes more crowded, legroom more cramped, and extra fees more common for things like food and baggage, passengers have been complaining.

But travelers may be surprised to find out how few rights they actually have.

They aren’t guaranteed a seat, or a flight arrival time,” says George Hobica, the founder of travel site “If you buy nonstop, you aren’t entitled to a nonstop flight. They can change everything. The only thing you are entitled to is a refund.”

Another problem: being bumped off your flight. While overbooking isn’t illegal, travelers who are bumped involuntarily have rights guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Transportation. If the airline rebooks you to reach your destination within an hour of your original arrival time, the carrier doesn’t owe you anything.

But if the new arrival would make you between 1 to 2 hours late on a domestic flight (and 1 to 4 hours late on international flights), the airline must pay you double your one-way airfare, up to $675, according to the DOT's passenger bill of rights.

If the new arrival time is more than 2 hours on a domestic flight and 4 hours on an international one, or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements, you are due four times your airfare, up to $1,350.

Some airlines will try to give you a voucher rather than provide the cash, but Hobica advises against accepting the voucher, which may come with restrictions and be worth less than the compensation. “You are entitled to a cash payment,” he says.

If you still want to consider a voucher offer, ask about the catches, such as whether it has blackout days, when it expires, and if it’s good for international travel.

In other cases, if a flight is delayed or canceled, each airline handles the process according to the terms listed in its contract of carriage. 

Before flying it’s important that travelers read an airline’s contract of carriage, Hobica recommends. Each airline has its own guarantees for what it will and won’t provide to travelers in case of delays or cancellations.

Travelers should also consider booking their flights using credit cards that offer good insurance for air travel snafus, Hobica says. Chase Sapphire Preferred, for instance, offers trip coverage up to $10,000 for canceled trips and $500 for delays.