American Airlines Ordered to Pay Florida Man $400,000 for Discrimination

Major U.S. air carrier American Airlines has been ordered by a Massachusetts jury to pay a Florida man $400,000 in a racial profiling case.

John Cerqueira, a computer consultant, sued the airline after he was taken off his flight at Logan Airport in Boston, Mass., in 2003. He had been trying to return to his home in Miami after spending Christmas with his family.

Cerqueria, who is an American citizen of Portuguese heritage, claimed in the suit that he was escorted off the flight by Massachusetts state troopers because he may have resembled someone of Middle Eastern, Arab or South Asian descent.

Two other men, of Israeli descent, were also taken off the aircraft with him for questioning before they were all released.

Cerquieria told The Boston Globe that a trooper said to him "You're just the poor chap who got seated next to these two other guys."

But included in the lawsuit was an e-mail that Cerquieria said an airline official sent him following the incident, that states: "Our investigation has revealed that our personnel perceived certain aspects of your behavior, which could have made other customers uncomfortable on board the aircraft."

"I have a feeling these kinds of incidents of racial profiling happen to people more often than we're aware of," Cerqueira told NBC 6, a South Florida television station.

After the three men were cleared, Cerqueria said that American Airlines still refused to fly them to their final destination, choosing to refund their airfares instead.

In a statement the airline said, "While we respect the jury system, we disagree with this verdict. This decision is simply not supported by the facts nor the law. We will evaluate our legal options."

Cerqueria, who grew up not far from Boston, predictably felt differently when told the Globe: "I'm grateful to the jury for sending the message to American Airlines that just the use of the word security isn't an excuse for unlawful behavior."'s Alexander B. Duncan contributed to this report.