Three months after Aeromexico, Mexico’s largest airline, had to apologize for racist casting in one of their TV ads, the company is being investigated for alleged discrimination against six indigenous men who assert they were treated unfairly by an employee of Aeromexico in the first week of November.
Aeromexico has issued a press statement asserting that they had not discriminated against the young men. However, the investigation into the incident has begun. Meanwhile, there are a few facts that are not in dispute.
On November 6, six young indigenous men from Oaxaca – Severiano Lopez, Macelo Perez, Gilberto Ruiz, Jose Rojas, Benedicto Eras and Florentino Bautista – went to board an Aeromexico flight bound for Hermosillo, Sonora. When they arrived at the counter Aeromexico employee Francisco Caceres told the men that they were overbooked and could not board the plane.
When the men asked for an explanation as to why they could not board the plane, Caceres allegedly said, “Do whatever you want.”
However, according to the official complaint, the supervisor then offered free hotel lodgings and food to all the other passengers, but not the six indigenous Oaxacans.
In a press statement released a few days after the incident, Aeromexico challenged that assertion by stating that after telling the men that the plane was over booked, Caceres, “explained to the passengers that they had to stay in Oaxaca and he offered them compensation for a hotel, food and a ticket for another flight…It is important to note that one other member of the group had boarded the plane earlier without any problem.”
The young Oaxacans went to human rights officials with their grievance. As a result the Public Defender of Human Rights of Oaxaca filed a complaint with the National Council against Discrimination (NCAD) and The National Commission of Human Rights of Mexico (NCHRM). The NCHRM announced the following week, on November 15, that the agency “had registered a complaint to investigate the alleged violations of human rights committed against six young indigenous persons from Oaxaca that had suffered discriminatory acts done by personnel of Aeromexico Airlines.”
“Due to their origin and manner of dress,” the complaint continues, “they prevented them from boarding the airplane even though they had previously purchased tickets.”
No timeline for the investigation has been announced so far. But Aeromexico was in the news this summer for a racist casting call that specified that people with brown skin should not apply for the airline’s commercial.
On August 13 Aeromexico issued an apology for the casting call that sought “people with that Polanco look,” referring to a wealthy white neighborhood in Mexico City.
“We apologize for the discriminatory posture of Catatonia [the publicity agency in charge of the account] that was disseminated in the social media…and we reiterate our respect for all people regardless of gender, language, religion or skin color.”
The Catatonia Publicity Agency also said that it “offers a heartfelt apology for the publication of the casting requirements that circulated in social media.”
The incident came to light when Tamara de Ada, a Mexican blogger, reported receiving a notice about the casting call from Aeromexico.com where, “they specified they didn’t want any BROWN SKINNED PERSON.”