American Airlines’ New “Black Atlas” Social Media Site…Why?

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9/10/2009 – American Airlines’ New “Black Atlas” Social Media Site…Why?

On October 15th 2009 American Airlines is set to repeat its own history with the launch of a social media site dedicated to the “Black Traveller.” The new social media site, Black Atlas, is the follow up to the ill-fated 2007 attempted at targeting the ‘black traveller’ through

I am aware that I need to tread lightly writing about this new venture by American Airlines, as this new social media site causes a racial divide among travellers. As far as we come in the United States (and while Flying With Fish addresses a global audience, American Airlines’ primary market is in the United States) race is still clearly an issue…and American Airlines appears to be pushing this divide further.

In mid-2007 American Airlines created, the social media portal was short lived as it not only didn’t attract the intended targeted audience, but also on some level it offended the intended targeted market. Along with, American Airlines launched a social media site for Gay and Lesbian travellers,, and women business travellers,

While I have previously written about American Airline’s social media portals, which you can find here, 13/05/2008 – Can You Use Your Airlines To Network & Grow Your Business?, the airline has done a very poor job in promoting these social media ventures. With the introduction of American Airlines’ Black Atlas, the airline has actually dropped “American Airlines,” which is an unusual move for American Airlines.

From the outset American Airlines’ Black Atlas social media site appears to play on certain stereotypical aspects of its targeted audience. The opening page of the pre-launch asks announces the new portal as “Your Passport to the Black Experience“ and asks, “Do you know where to find blues music in Moscow? How about a Jamaican restaurant in Milan? If you do, I want to know about it.” Delving deeper into American Airlines’ Black Atlas site, under the seven individual of categories of interest, along with Travel Tips, Restaurants, Arts & Museums there is also a listing for “Beauty & Barber Shops.”

This marketing concept is intended to attract the “sophisticated African American traveler,” however having contacted multiple ‘black’ frequent travellers (as not all are ‘African American’), most all seem very turned off by the Black Atlas concept.

When I asked Benet Wilson, the Online Managing Editor for Aviation Week, her opinions of the Airlines’ attempt to specifically retarget the “African American” traveller, she remarked, “Experiencing black culture? I’m a world citizen I want travel unique experiences-not black travel experiences.”

Numerous other “sophisticated African American travellers” echoed Benet’s sentiments. One traveller (who asked that I not use his name) I posed the question to, who travels more than 100,000 miles annually with American Airlines from Airlines’ hub at Chicago O’Hare, said he was offended at the references to “African American,” as he is British, living in the United States. He stated that he prefers to attend the Opera and Classical music events rather than blues music venues and seeks out local food or Italian and French food rather than Jamaican food…and states he’s never been to a ‘corner barber shop’ in the 25 years he has lived in the United States.

While I am a white guy from New York, those who I have met, traveled with, worked with and known who are ‘black’ are as different from each other as I am from others in my ‘racial demographic.’ Targeting the ‘black experience’ plays on stereotypes that are not only dangerous, but also will potentially alienate a significant customer base. A ‘black traveller’ who grew up in New York City will have different interests than a ‘black traveller’ who is from New Orleans; those from Barbados are vastly different than those from Los Angeles and sophisticated tastes of those from Chicago will be quite different from those who were raised in Johannesburg.

So what has American Airlines learned from its 2007 failed attempt to launch It has learned that it needs a flashier website and a well known spokesperson, such as Nelson George, to be out front pitching the new social media site. Other than that it appears that history may be doomed to repeat itself

Below is a screen shot of the new American Airlines Black Atlas social media portal

Happy Flying!



  1. The site also is aiming to be crowd-sourced with no payment and unclear terms for “contributors.” If you proceed to register at the terms and conditions claim copyright over everything on the site including, presumably, contributions, and at the same time have an onerous indemnification clause:

    You agree to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless American Airlines and its affiliates from and against any and all claims, demands, proceedings, suits and actions, including any related liabilities, obligations, losses, damages, deficiencies, penalties, taxes, levies, fines, judgments, settlements, expenses (including legal and accountants’ fees and disbursements) and costs (collectively, “Claims”), based on, arising out of or resulting from your use of the Site, including without limitation any Claims alleging facts that if true would constitute your breach of this Agreement.

  2. I most say. I am a frequent Black Traveller and is very excited by such a site.
    I like high-brow fine wine but still like by black gospel on Sunday morning and greens and cornbread after church. I love who I am and I am different from my white co-workers who want to go to rooty-tooty bars when we are on the road. So I welcome a site to help me find the places and things I like about my culture. Most white people forget that the world is built around them while other cultures or left on the side of the road. So Welcome Black Atlas!!!!!!

  3. Lee,

    While I have approved your comment I must add the caveat that according to your business resume one of your clients is American Airlines…and you have created advertising/marketing material for American Airlines. This may or may not influence the comments you have posted, however I find that fact that American Airlines is a client of your relevant and influential to your opinion.

    Based on the assumptions of AA’ Black Atlas are we likely to see,,,, in the future? Part of what you describe in your Sunday enjoyments is I am sure influenced by you being from Macon, Georgia.

    Happy Flying!


  4. As a black woman & former frequent AA flier, I’m not sure how I feel about this or if I really need guidance on finding a black hairdresser in Moscow…or anyone else for that matter. I like a variety of local experiences & if I want a black experience in Italy, Japan or Dubai, I just ask some black folks! Maybe they should switch their focus & start by upgrading their old ass planes!

  5. I’ll start off this note with a notation that I am a new contributor to, so there will be no need to question my bias or comments:-)

    Unlike the aforementioned African American/Black traveler, I’m an expat, having just spent 3 yrs in Dubai and now in Italy. My travels are not necessarily filled with guided tours and visits to (yet another) museum or church…I hope that I’ll be able to give a glimpse into my world and what it’s like to be a Black (I don’t use the AA terminology, I’m from the ’70’s) expat, living in the age of a world economic crisis/Obama/single (40-something woman) through my blog.

    I, on the other hand, am not blind to the fact that those, be they AA, Black, Caribbean or African are not necessarily looking for a ‘Black experience’ while on vacation. That is not what people are looking for when they travel to distant lands, so different from their own. That’s the beauty of traveling – but what I have noted during my own journey, is that there are fewer and fewer independent Black adventurers from the States abroad.

    It is my hope that my words and blurbs will give that reluctant or hopeful traveler the impetus and courage to visit distant shores…to see that there are people over here, who are just like them! It may be a foreign country but in travel, you’ll find more similarities than differences.

    And we should not forget or overlook one of the differences b/w this site and the old one – social media, as we know it today. Furthermore, as the degrees of separation are becoming smaller, the opportunity to connect with fellow adventurist, takes what would be a ‘regular/annual vacation’ to a whole new level. I’ve met several of my Facebook friends while traveling in the last 2 months..friends of friends sometimes – many whom I’ve never seen face-to-face. Knowing I’d have a friendly face to share a coffee or visit a gallery with, made my stay more personal than touristy.

    There will be information on here for everyone…at least that’s what I’m offering to my readers! If you want to go out and need a fabulous pair of shoes or dress, check out my blog! Any black woman who’s been on vacation knows exactly what it feels like to need your hair done and no one around who has a clue what to do to/with it! I’ve been in Italy since August and have been craving a Krispy Kreme donut and pancakes – just so happens I found a cafe that serves a full American Breakfast for Sunday Brunch (maple syrup included)!

    And we know, even though this site is targeting the ‘affluent Black traveler’ – there will be those of varied demographics, who’ll be reading and navigating this portal. Just as there are many of us who read “Travel & Leisure’ magazine” – with its high-end/uber luxury features…we know it’s not targeted to us mere-mortals…but we enjoy reading about these exotic locales and dream of maybe, one day, lying upon their tropical beaches while getting a Thai massage:-)

    As Trinisteph stated in her post: ‘If i want a black experience in Italy, Japan or Dubai, I just ask some black folks!” – well that sounds very nice but in some countries, you might not ‘run into’ black people (i.e. Warsaw – I was there last week). I have a friend/fellow expat living in Barcelona, who, after two years has yet to ‘run into’ any other black people…could be because of the circles she lives/works with – but quite simply, you just don’t see them walking down the street! What was one of the topics that came up during our brief meeting 3 weeks ago? Hair salons and cravings of food from back home!!! And Dubai – yeah, as if you run into Black people there!

    As a Black American woman, I do not view this site or venture as offensive nor separatist – this is my opinion and I know others will have theirs. And I also understand that as an expat, my views and needs may be different than someone who’s on a vacation…but what I hope to share with those who do decide to take a peek at BA, is a way and manner in which ANYONE who is traveling abroad can find a unique and more personal way to partake of their surroundings.

    This is just my two cents worth…

  6. FF, it would seem that the right direction is to make Black Atlas a melting pot of historically significant cultural exposes. Arguably, AA will best serve themselves by fully underwriting this venture, either directly or through paid affiliation in the travel industry, e.g. AAA’s Via magazine, as opposed to crowd-sourced commentary. Moderation is necessary for the “Hater” constituent, as usual. Thus, AA might actually claim recognition for doing the public service.

  7. Christopher,

    American Airlines continues to say this is their first venture into this market, while ignoring their prior entry into this market in 2007. This venture can be a melting pot, if executed correctly, however at this time it appears more divisive than beneficial. Additionally the terms for entering content are not favourable to the users (I know no one reads the terms of service, but I have).

    Happy Flying!


    PS: I briefly lived in Menlo Park, lovely town you’re in.

  8. Is there some secret to registering on I’ve tried twice and nothing happens. I didn’t get an email and it still doesn’t allow me to sign-in.

  9. My family has been trying to get me to join Facebook. They say everyone (family) goes on Facebook chats. I found no need to join. I was listening to DJ Herb Kent on Station 102.7 and I heard him say check-out Black Atlas dot com.,I was traveling with my fiance. Both have decide to check it out. I’m glad I did. Maybe I will convince my ‘family’ to move over to your website.

    Renalta K Wallace

  10. I would like to know what you do. I am going drive across America and would like to know about some interesting places to visit and see as an African American.


  11. Personally I am saddened by this AA site and it’s attempt to target people of African or Hamitic ancestry (commonly referred to as “black people”). It is quite presumptuous to assume that non-white people who are of African and American ancestry are somehow seeking what a marketing team and sadly American Society determine to be the so called Black Experience when they travel. Something few people truly know anything about to begin with. Will I be able to find a prison disproportionately filled along ethnic and gender lines in China? How about a skyrocketing percentage single parent households in Tunisia? I think this is less about the “Black Experience” abroad and more about a shameless marketing ploy by a corporation grasping at straws in a last ditch attempt to save itself. I have traveled quite a bit in my 33 years on this earth and have seen glimpses of the “Black Experience” in other countries. It’s a lot like it is here in the U.S. Horribly tainted by the ills of our collective humanity.

  12. I found myself taken aback by the site which popped up in my ads (which prompted me to visit the site and then search for your article) but I can’t quite say why. Is it the attempt to selectively market or segregate? Is it poor execution?

    As someone of partially Jewish heritage I do know that some of my Jewish friends and relatives take particular interest in Jewish relics, neighborhoods and historical figures when they travel as a supplement to the total foreign experience. I recently heard about friends who visited a historic Jewish settlement in China. I doubt they would be offended by someone trying to help them find these sites. Given the racial troubles we have had in our own country I imagine it could be instructive to see how the African diaspora has settled in other parts of the world. We also know that people don’t always travel for the foreign experience; sometime they just travel for business or escape and are as much interested in finding a familiar footing as the exotic.

    There’s a difference in saying this is a portal for people interested in the “black experience” worldwide and saying this is the portal for black people. Perhaps American Airlines’ mangling of this distinction is the problem; they can’t decide whether they are marketing to African American travelers or marketing an African diaspora themed travel experience. Sadly even if they did it better, the critics would probably mangle it for them.

  13. this is plain racist.. if they will target black people and make them feel special, why dont they do the same for me? how about a white atlas? or a latino atlas? or an indian or native american atlas? the political correctness and racial equality thing is done. why do we need to take it a step further and make on race feel like it needs more attention?

  14. Does no one see racism here? If there were an atttempt to fo this for whites, Al Sharpton’s fat butt would be in the middle of a runway with a sign, his hair causing takeoff problems foor any prop plane.
    This is getting worse every day. I’m all for a multicultural society, bu how can we do that iall are allowed special interest groups, funds, scholarships, except whites. That would be considered racist.
    The only thing left for me isthe Hells Angels. I’m not saying I agree with them in any oftheir views, but I’m not white enough for the KKK.
    Racism has gone full turn here. Can I start looking for repartations?

  15. I too, am very appaled at this site. I am a white traveler and need some places for whites to visit. My wife is Asian and she needs guidance as well. Last I heard Blacks wanted equality way to go AA and others on this page for setting yourselves off to the side again. Do not blame me or other whites for this one. I am very disappointed by all blacks that think this is good. TIme to stop this crap.

  16. Since AA has shown that promoting the interests of human beings based on race is acceptable, I’d like my White Atlas promoting the white experience now.

  17. This is ridiculous. AA should be ashamed of itself to stoop to this. It is blatant racism against white people. Where is the version called “White Atlas”???? Nowhere…….you’ll never see it, Al Not So Sharpton would be screaming his head off, and Jesse Jackson etc. ACLU, lawsuits, etc. Sickening.

  18. I can see where people are coming from that AA probably shouldn’t have created such a site when we are supposed to be moving past racial boundaries, however like someone stated above there is a difference in saying this is a portal for black people and this is a portal for travelers seeking some black culture wherever they may be heading.

    White people, you all are forgetting that most everything is centered around you all already, you are still the majority, therefore no you will not see a “White Atlas” because mostly everywhere you go you will have and can find your culture easily. I for one as a black man have trouble going to the next town and knowing where to find so much as a barber shop, we can’t just go to great clips you know.. that just wouldn’t work out. I’m sure other things or pieces of black culture are even harder to find if one can’t even get their hair cut when they have traveled somewhere, so having a resource to find such places does’nt seem like a bad idea to me.

    People say the same about BET channel, people complain about why do black peopel have their own channel… what about all of the other thousands of channels that are ruled by white shows etc? this is less the case nowadays where there is more diversity in televesion bue it was not back when BET first came out. I feel this is the case about Black Atlas as well. Don’t be angry about it, how about use the resource yourselves and learn about black culture.

  19. White guy from New York. Everything about race doesn’t have to be racial…unless someone wants to make it so. Apparently, you think a major business partnering with a Black owned business thru the use of social media is or can be “dangerous”. Why? Because sophisticated Black travelers as well as all the other racial groups might be insulted.
    I found that rationale interesting, but even more interesting was what appeared to be the reason for your great concern. If I understand it, you did a lot of research and found out that Black American’s don’t want, need or appreciate any information that might enhances their travel experience, connect them with other people with similar interest or even find a barbershop in a new and unfamiliar place. Well, unlike you, I can’t speak for other Black travelers, sophisticated or not, but I think you might be wrong. I’m an un-sophisticated Black American traveler and I thirst for that kind of information and connection. And I wouldn’t be offended in the least if American Airlines or anyone else wanted to promote their business by offering support via a social network web-site to any other group…gay, disabled, white, Asian, homeless, etc.
    And finally, yes it’s true the Black folks are as different as any other racial demographic…and we know it but we also know what we have in common. Thanks for your concern, but I think we got it.

  20. If the proposition does not appeal to you then don’t visit it. People get all bent out shape over the most ridiculously things. There a millions of people who this site will appeal to. I’m platinum elite on AA and I’m an avid traveler and sometimes when visiting a new place, I crave being in a familiar environment, especially when I’ve been on the road for weeks. I’m totally excited to find out where to find black hair salons in some of my favorite European cities. My hair definitely suffers because I have zero hair skills.

    Thanks, AA.

  21. I applaued AA…… is too bad when we get something for us people hate. Keep up the good work. I am a hair replacement specialist in Indiana where can I sign my business up so all people will know where I am?


  22. I am a black woman in her mid forties with a teenage daughter. I was born in the UK to Caribbean parents. I travel frequently for work and for leisure. I consider this to be a great privilege but I echo what some of the previous posters have said about living an expat life or wanting to kick off your shoes after several days working far from home. I have read all the posts with great interest and some hilarity.
    What are all you lovely liberal folk getting so bent out of shape about?
    Fish – explain how exercising some niche marketing is going to create a “racial divide”?
    I spent several months in China with my daughter recently and I would have loved to have been able to access some useful/practical information about black hair & beauty products and services…..and there were plenty of expat blogs, websites and guides which provided lots of practical information for white women looking for just this same type of info away from home. Is that offensive?
    I work in the arts and I like to experience the music, food, art of different cities when I travel but equally I am curious about migrant cultures and emergent forms as well as the mainstream. If AA can sign post me and any other interested traveler to encounter aspects of the African diaspora surely that’s a great resource.

    When I want to find a great Italian restaurant or an opera seat worldwide there are many, many, many sources for that information – the kind of information that Black Atlas promises is much harder to find if you don’t have a personal local network. Perhaps not in the US but certainly everywhere else I have traveled. Seems to me that someone at AA has done some research, listened to their customers and come up with something really useful. Its an option, not obligatory – so if you don’t want to know where to get a good jerk chicken in Berlin, don’t look it up.
    And of course all those ‘black’ people you know from Bridgetown to Johannesburg are individuals just like myself, MsDar, Chloe, Gil Brown, artiss2k etc, etc….but it looks like we’ll all be watching BA with some interest. Lets hope more follow suit.

  23. I tried to keep an open mind, but just can’t. To justify this segregated, racist website because you might need a fresh fade in Madrid, is insulting.

    Sociology 101…when you allow only a specific, segregated group of people to participate and seclude the rest, you will have resentment and rightfully so. Don’t tell me “it’s for everyone,” when the site targets a narrow, specific group of people. When segregation involves race, you have racism. So please, quit trying to justify this crap because you might need detangler in London. Just say that your a racist and you don’t care…I’d respect that much more.

  24. You guys (angry commentors and author) are really dumb. White Atlas already already exists, it’s called Mainstream Media. Black folks are not just dark-skinned white folks. There are differences in the cultures. This is simply an attempt to provide info that may be of particular interest to black folks that would otherwise be hard to find (and attract more travellers, $, in the process).

  25. Why do some of you need to make this a race issue? I personally find Black Atlas useful and don’t see how many of you are offended. It’s not racist people it’s called niche marketing as @earth163 has clearly stated. Businesses do it all the time when they’re attempting to reach a certain demographic or group of people.

    Is it that hard to see the Black Atlas as an educational tool for both blacks and non-blacks? @FF: I see you have yet to respond to @earth163 question. Relax everyone!

  26. Thank you so much Angie. I am from a family whose genetic background is made up of many wonderful cultures, including French Canadian, Portuguese, American Indian and African American. I am black, and although I have many interests and love travelling and learning about all cultures, the world can be scary and frustrating when you have to consider that you are still not welcome in many places. It helps to get thoughts and reviews from other blacks.
    Having grown up in America, you aren’t really told about the worlwide affect of the African slave trade and how the slaves were taken to places other than America. It is interesting to get an idea of how blacks have fared since the slave trade in other parts of the world. I recently travelled to London and was surprised that so many black slaves had been taken there too.
    I think it’s important to teach all of our children about their own culture as well as that of others. I would welcome an IrishAtlas or JapaneseAtlas or any other cultural help. I love travelling and hearing from other travellers sharing their oersonal experiences. Its important to learn about our cultural similarities and differences. You learn about getting along with others by knowing what is the same and whats different so you don’t offend, etc.

    It’s not so much a racism issue here (which would be superiority or an intolerance), but a help for any traveller that may want to locate black cultural experiences around the world.

    As African Americans, we can’t go back to anywhere; like an Italian American person can go to Italy or a Chinese American person can go to China. Our history is multicultural: the black segment started on ships and was spread around the world. We need help in locating the various areas that slaves were taken and seeing how other black slaves grew new co-cultures.
    I am so sorry that some of you feel there are no avenues for white travellers who want to learn more about what white travellers have experienced. Frommer’s, Fodors, Lonely Planet and others have always been great guides for travel and I use them as well.

  27. I like what this airline has done to get the experiences of black travellers. It is sad that the company itself still has employee that have racism issue from with in. This company trys to create a space for everyone to have an enjoyable experience around the globe. This is always been a great guide line for good business.

  28. “BlackAtlas” is, unconditionally, categorically outright wholly racist, period.

    A publicly held common carrier – in this case American Airlines/AMR – that creates and maintains a specialty product exclusive to a race, a specific ethnicity is indeed demonstrating outright racial preference as same caters to, accommodates, gives preferential consideration, promotion and convey unto a specific ethnic group.

    If a reverse situation were to occur, such as “WhiteAtlas”, adjoined with identical manner of all syntax, thusly focused on the Occidental/Caucasian – “white” race and that ethnicity only, there would be endless outrage, protests, lawsuits.

    It comes as no surprise that nearly every negro in response to “BlackAtlas” finds same “rewarding”, “uplifting”, “not at all racist”………….

    I’d give anything to have a “WhiteAtlas” and see how fast the negro community was showing up at airports and AA/AMR headquarters in near if not full on violent protest.

    Pardon me for being wholly candid. As well, not politically correct.

  29. Hi,

    I am a white man planning a trip to Africa. Does anybody know where I will be able to find the most white people to hang out with?

    I need to travel and find white people to do white things.

    Can anybody help me?

    (now how does that sound folks?)

  30. This whole PC double standard is really becoming outrageous and actually creating more of a racial divide as white Americans realize that the rules only apply to us….

    So I hope that black travelers enjoy the “Atlas”….and I hope that the shareholders of AA will rely of their profits from the 12% black population.

    I see the whole thing as race pandering and have shredded my AA frequent flier card. I will NOT be patronizing American Airlines ever again and would encourage other Whites, Latinos, and Asians to do the same.

  31. I went to the AA BlackAtlas site and did a sample flight booking between two destinations and the cost was $2,400.

    I then went to the Amrican Airlines “normal” site and keyed in the same dates/times and the price quoted was $3,100


    Question: If me as a white man books through the BlackAtlas site and then showed up at the airport for the flight – would they check that I was black and not let me fly for being white?

  32. I’ve just read all the comments–there aren’t that many since 2009. AA is using the American economic system of Capitalism, and they have every right to do so. If all the people who take such emotional offense at this site would use that energy to get the American society to provide equality in terms of health care, education and jobs rather than this one website, we wouldn’t be having this conversation! Which is more harmful? Really! I appreciate Lisa and earth163 the most. All of you who care so much: there’s only ONE “race”–the Human Race! The division of “race” is a political tool that only appeared in history over the past few centuries. TV & radio–all media targets a particular demographic; look around you! Why would Rev. Al waste his time protesting AA over one website? I don’t hear you protesting the hundreds of websites fully dedicated to hate and actively promoting violence another group of people! James, you’re boycotting AA? I’m sure they’ll miss your business!

    Yes, slaves were sent all over the American continent. Slavery has existed for thousands of years and continues in a horrible way today. It’s just that in the USA they took it to a whole different level by intoducing shades of skin color into the equation, and committing all kinds of physical and psychological atrocities that make Hitler look like a kindergarten teacher. It’s a new day and mankind as a whole is maturing into adulthood, gradually putting away its adolescent behavior; rebelliousness, war, prejudice, immorality, irreligon and ignorance.

    If Black Atlas succeeds, that means people are receiving some benefit from the service it offers. If it fails, that means it is not and AA make go back to the drawing board again. So what? This one site is not going to make or break the most vital and challenging issue facing America: racism. Let’s expand our minds and each one who cares focus our energies on DOING something about health care, education and jobs in the U.S. which will go much farther to end inequality. Racism itself, however, can only be changed in the heart of each of us, and through education. I think travelling provides an excellent way to educate ourselves on the oneness of humankind, and I’ve begun a FB group to that end, called One Humankind. You’re all welcome to continue the conversation on it.

  33. American Airlines is a carrier, that while not exclusive as sole carrier to our needs for combined business and pleasure, we have nevertheless quite extensively used AA for several decades and over the past decade from our records and general recollection, have given over $800K of business to – both business and pleasure.
    Well, thanx to their unconscionable negrocentric nonsense, I have decided to no longer ever use them again. Period. That AA would think of, all the more implement such an outrageous and insulting program such as “Black Atlas” more than compels my business to seek any other carrier, as well same for my personal travel. And I know I am not alone. talk about a stupid and insulting move on the part of a commericial carrier – public company.

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