Member of US Congress issues letter concerning “disturbing” details of Huntsville airport incident

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Sabrina Suluai-Mahuka says she was discriminated against by American Airlines. (Courtesy of Sabrina Suluai-Mahuka)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — American Samoa’s only representative in U.S. Congress has issued a letter to the chairman and CEO of American Airlines concerning the “disturbing” facts of an incident of alleged discrimination against her constituent. 

Delegate Amata Coleman Radewagen sent a letter dated August 2 to Doug Parker, chairman and CEO of American Airlines. Copied on the letter are the chairs of the House Transportation Committee, as well as the CEO of Airlines for America, a trade association that represents North American airlines.

The letter references an incident that occurred in Huntsville International Airport which was first reported by CBS 42. 

In late July, as American Samoa’s Teacher of the Year Sabrina Suluai-Mahuka was leaving Alabama following a trip to Space Camp with her fellow educators, she claims she was discriminated against by American Airlines agents, who refused to provide her and another Asian American Pacific Islander teacher with overnight accommodations following a flight cancellation. 

Moments later, her white male colleague, Ohio Teacher of the Year Anthony Coy-Gonzalez, was offered overnight accommodations without even requesting them. Coy-Gonzalez and dozens of other Teachers of the Year have since signed a statement condemning the airline for their actions.

“The basic facts as reported are disturbing to say the least,” the delegate’s letter says, “but the swift eyewitness recognition of such obtuse treatment by her fellow teachers is most commendable.”

The delegate’s letter asks for status updates and a copy of any investigative report to be provided to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. It also says that such reports could help inform changes to the bipartisan infrastructure legislation now being considered by congress. 

“As Congress is currently laser-focused on a renewed transportation authorization and funding bill,” the letter said, “rapid production of any reports that could aid in securing any potential legislative corrections would be most helpful to the Committee Chairman and Ranking Member copied herein.”

American Airlines has concluded its internal review of the incident and concluded that what happened to Suluai-Mahuka was not discrimination, they told CBS 42 in an email Thursday. 

Suluai-Mahuka has said that she is “extremely disappointed” by the conclusions of the investigation, which lasted just five days. 

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