Musician Says Airline Accused Him of Trafficking Own Sons

Black singer-songwriter David Ryan Harris says his biracial kids raised red flag with American
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2023 9:35 AM CDT
Musician Says Airline Accused Him of Trafficking Own Sons
In this Nov. 7, 2019, file photo, an American Airlines jet approaches Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

A Black musician who's performed with John Mayer and the Dave Matthews Band is now on the receiving end of an apology from American Airlines after he says he was accused of trafficking his own kids. In a Sept. 23 Instagram post, David Ryan Harris, 55, said he flew from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Sept. 15 with sons Truman and Hendrix, who are biracial, but when they got off the plane in LA, they were met by four cops at the gate, per People. "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 noted in a video. "We're met, embarrassingly so, by this AA employee and police officers. [They] questioned my kids."

Harris says that he contacted American after the incident, for which he says he wasn't offered an initial apology, but that it took the airline more than a week to get back to him. In a follow-up post, Harris noted that what peeved him the most was that the flight attendant could've checked the passenger manifest before calling the police, or even done "a pretty quick Google search" on him, where she may have seen his social media accounts showing him with his children. He also noted that "child trafficking was never mentioned during the stop."

American has since offered a mea culpa for the incident, via a statement that Harris posted Tuesday. The airline says it determined "our policies regarding suspected human trafficking were not followed," and that the flight attendant in question offered her "heartfelt apology." Harris lauded American for finally reaching out, though he noted that came only after "I had to resort to shaming" the airline. He also says he hopes airlines will consider mandatory ID checks for young travelers, which would "[remove] the onus from flight attendants to have to make determinations based on conjecture, no matter how well intentioned."

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Harris, who says American also offered him 10,000 frequent-flier miles, now has a petition calling for the aforementioned mandatory ID checks. A similar incident happened to a white mom in October 2021 while traveling with her 10-year-old daughter, who's biracial, on a Southwest flight from LA to Denver. "I hear all the time from parents that this is happening to," Mary MacCarthy tells KCAL. "Clearly, something is wrong with the training flight crews are undergoing." (More musician stories.)

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