A musician, who was allegedly accused of trafficking his own biracial children by an American Airlines flight attendant, recently called out the company for their handling of the incident after he reported what had occurred.
Per PEOPLE, the September 15 incident occurred after David Ryan Harris, 55, and his two children landed in Los Angeles after flying from Atlanta on an American Airlines flight. Harris later detailed what occurred in a number of video posts on Instagram, explaining that an American Airlines employee and four police officers had a conversation with him after they deboarded the plane.
“Apparently, a flight attendant had called ahead with some sort of concern that perhaps my mixed children weren’t my children, because they were unresponsive during an interaction with her,” Harris said in one of the videos.
Harris said the flight attendant had initially tried to get his children to tell her their names, but one of the minors is “pretty shy.” “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 recalled.
The 55-year-old father and his biracial children were eventually allowed to leave after a conversation with staff and officers. And though Harris was told to complete an online form after he got in touch with the company’s customer service, he did not hear from them for several days. He said he ultimately decided to share his experience on social media.
“My kids are like ‘We don’t want to fly that airline again,’” said Harris. He also said one of his children asked if he “did something wrong” and thought he had probably “endangered the family.”
Harris in his first post also said American Airlines had been his preferred airline over the last 20 years and he was of the view that the incident was racially motivated, PEOPLE reported. “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,” he captioned.
In other videos, Harris said his son the flight attendant suspected was in danger is just 7 years old, adding that the conversation between the minor and the worker was short. “It seems to me that you should have to have a bit more to go on before you’re able to call the police on someone,” Harris said.
“It’s my word against her word, and she’s not even there,” he added. “She didn’t even come to the top of the jetway to get her hero award, so I’m left to defend myself, based on something that at the time I was like, ‘I don’t even know what you’re talking about. My child doesn’t speak to anybody.’”
Responding to the incident in a statement, American Airlines said “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 in another post on Monday shared that an American Airlines agent had gotten in touch with him on Sunday, per PEOPLE. He said that during his interaction with the agent, they touched on his children’s “purported nonresponsiveness”, adding that the agent said airplane employees are provided a list of trigger scenarios to identify when investigating suspected child trafficking cases.
Though the agent did not outline the list in question, Harris said it was likely one of the reasons was his children looking at him after the flight attendant tried to talk to them. He also said the agent even admitted that “at a very human level,” his own children usually look at him before they have conversations with people they do not know.
Harris also said the flight attendant could have established he and his children have the same last name by reviewing their seat numbers. He said the agent ultimately apologized after telling him that was what he wanted. He said the agent also offered him 10,000 frequent flyer miles to make amends, but he said that was “kind of insulting” as the points the company gives for creating an AA card is more.
He also said if child trafficking is something that airlines want to deal with, “the line of defense should not be on the plane.”
“It should stop with the federal agents,” he said. “Once we get past TSA, I don’t want to hear from a flight attendant about what kind of hunch they have. It’s a burden on the flight attendant and it makes far more room for error.”