New York, NY, February 12, 2004 ... American Airlines has assured the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that it is conducting a "thorough investigation" into allegations that one of its pilots encouraged Christian passengers on a New York/JFK-bound flight from Los Angeles to identify themselves and to use the flight time as an opportunity to engage in conversation about religion with non-Christian passengers.
"Let me assure you that we take this very seriously and are conducting a thorough investigation," Gerard J. Arpey, President and CEO of American Airlines, said of the allegations in a letter to ADL.
"Our policies are quite clear that American Airlines promotes an environment of respect for the diversity of all persons, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, disability, gender, age or sexual orientation," he said.
On behalf of the airline, Mr. Arpey offered his apologies to all who were offended by our employee's remarks. The airline indicated that, consistent with its policies, it has withheld the pilot from service while the investigation into the February 8 flight continues.
ADL contacted American Airlines to express concern about the alleged episode. In a letter to the airline, ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said that "the allegations, if true, are deeply troubling. Religious faith and belief are private and personal matters."
The following is the text of ADL's letter to American Airlines:
February 9, 2004
Mr. Gerard J. Arpey
President & Chief Executive Officer
P.O. Box 619616
Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, TX 75261
Dear Mr. Arpey:
We were shocked when we read news accounts of an American Airlines pilot allegedly asking Christian passengers to identify themselves by raising their hands and suggesting they discuss their religious beliefs with non-Christian passengers aboard Flight 34, February 8, from Los Angeles to JFK/New York City. The pilot also allegedly advised passengers of his availability at the end of the flight to further discuss Christianity with them.
We are confident that American Airlines does not condone such conduct. These allegations, if true, are deeply troubling. Religious faith and belief are private and personal matters. The pilot in question purportedly used his authority to invade this sphere of privacy.
While we understand that American Airlines is conducting an investigation into the incident, we urge you not only to do so thoroughly and expeditiously, but also to speak out publicly and take appropriate remedial measures.
We have received many inquiries from concerned individuals about this. As we have in the past in our relationship with American Airlines, once receiving your response ADL will make it available on our Web site and disseminate it through our network of regional offices. We look forward to hearing from you.
Abraham H. Foxman