The Southwest Airlines gates of National Airport are almost completely without flying customers, showing the impact COVID-19 is having on air travel.
A Black-owned company that provided food and beverage concessions at the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport in Mississippi is suing the board that oversees the airport after its contract was cancelled.
Representatives for Michigan-based Jacobsen/Daniels Associates filed a federal lawsuit Oct. 2 against the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority and Chief Executive Officer Paul Brown. Company officials allege breach of contract and that Jacobsen/Daniels was treated differently than other businesses at the airport.
According to court documents, Jacobsen/Daniels spent more than $2 million on improvements at the Jackson airport after assuming the food and beverage concessions contract in 2018.
“The defendant (JMAA) treated plaintiff differently than other white-owned businesses that operates at JAN (Jackson airport), specifically because plaintiff is an African American-owned business,” Jacobsen/Daniels representatives said in the lawsuit.
But airport authority attorney Dorsey Carson said Jacobsen/Daniels breached its contract when it unilaterally shut down its last concession over the Memorial Day weekend, normally one of the busiest periods at the airport.
“Jacobsen/Daniels informed JMAA that it would not reopen unless JMAA agreed to a new contract with favorable treatment,” Carson said. “JMAA treats all vendors equally, and Jacobsen/Daniels was properly terminated. The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority will vigorously defend itself against the frivolous allegations made by Jacobsen/Daniels.”
Passengers walk through the terminal at the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport in Rankn County. (Photo: File/The Clarion-Ledger)
Jacobsen/Daniels officials said they had a meeting scheduled for March 16 with Brown over the lease, but Brown cancelled the meeting. It was during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. While other concessionaires in the airport terminal were closing or limiting services due to the pandemic, Jacobsen/Daniels continued to operate.