Black father says he was accused of trafficking his biracial sons on flight

Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 5:53 AM EDT
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LOS ANGELES (KCAL/KCBS) - A Black father is asking for people to “do better” after he says he was accused of trafficking his own children on an American Airlines flight to Los Angeles.

David Ryan Harris, a musician who has collaborated with the likes of John Mayer, Carlos Santana and the Dave Matthews Band, recently took to social media to tell his story about the incident that rattled his family.

Almost two weeks ago, Harris, who is Black, was flying from Atlanta to Los Angeles with his two sons, Truman and Hendrix, who are biracial. He shared in an Instagram post that when the family got off the plane, four police officers were waiting for them.

“Apparently, a flight attendant had called ahead with some sort of concern that perhaps my mixed children weren’t my children,” said Harris in the video post. “We are met, embarrassingly so, by this AA employee and police officers. They questioned my kids.”

The musician posted on social media about the incident because he says he never received a response from American’s customer service. He says it wasn’t until the airline saw his story on their Twitter feed that an agent reached out with an apology and 10,000 frequent flyer miles.

“I had to go through a ticket counter. I had to pass federal agents. It should stop with the federal agent. Once we get past TSA, I don’t want to hear from a flight attendant about what kind of hunch they have,” Harris said.

Harris says he doesn’t plan to pursue the matter legally but wants to see some changes happen.

“There were many steps she could have taken before she lobbed the hand grenade of having the authorities called,” he said of the flight attendant.

After hearing Harris’ story, Los Angeles mother Mary MacCarthy reached out about a similar incident she says happened to her as she traveled with her biracial daughter, Moira, aboard a Southwest Airlines flight in 2021.

“I hear all the time from parents that this is happening to. The only commonality in the families that reach out to me is that the parent has a different skin color than the child who is involved,” MacCarthy said.

MacCarthy sued Southwest after the incident, which she says involved the family being confronted at the airport.

“Clearly, something is wrong with the training that flight crews are undergoing,” she said.

American Airlines responded to a request for more information on their human trafficking policies with the following statement:

“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.”