Faimul Alam, Shan Anand, W.H., and M.K. commenced an action against American Airlines Group, Inc., American Airlines, Inc., Republic Airlines, Inc., Republic Airways Holdings, Inc., Envoy Air, Inc. and American Eagle, Inc., alleging racial discrimination in violation of federal and New York State civil rights laws. Additionally, plaintiffs asserted claims for breach of contract, implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence and gross negligence.
Plaintiffs were four men between the ages of 23-29. Both Faimul Alam and M.K. were Muslim and of Bengali descent, while W.H. was a Muslim of Syrian descent and Shan Anand was a Sikh of Punjabi descent.
Plaintiffs arrived at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Canada where they printed their boarding passes, checked their luggage, cleared customs and security, and proceeded to the gate where they boarded American Airlines Flight No. AA44718 bound for New York. As plaintiff W.H. slept, a flight attendant woke him and demanded that he exit the aircraft. W.H complied, hurried out of the plane, but returned to retrieve his jacket. The flight attendant also directed plaintiff M.K. to exit the aircraft. After W.H. and M.K. had exited and were waiting on the bridge, a flight attendant “rushed” to Alam and Anand and demanded, “in a hostile manner,” that they also exit the aircraft. When they asked for a reason, plaintiffs were told that “the crew members and specifically the captain felt uneasy and uncomfortable with their presence on the flight and as such, refused to fly unless they were removed from the flight.” Plaintiffs were later allowed to board the next flight to New York after being told that the crew felt safe flying with them onboard.
Defendants moved to dismiss the discrimination claims as preempted by the Montreal Convention. Applying King v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 284 F.3d 352, 357 (2d Cir. 2002), the court found that plaintiffs' allegations establish that their injuries occurred while in the course of embarking within the meaning of Article 17 of the Convention. Under settled law, if a claim falls within its substantive scope, the Montreal Convention provides the sole remedy. Thus, the court held that the claims for discrimination were preempted as the Montreal Convention provides the exclusive remedy, and dismissed the claims. The court also dismissed plaintiffs' claims for non-performance of the contract of carriage because they ultimately were carried on the next flight.