Another day, another airlines service accused of racism and discrimination towards one of its passengers. American Airlines is the latest to be accused of practicing racism on a flight, after a black passenger claimed she was forced to give up her first class seat, while her Caucasian friend was allowed to stay.
Rane Baldwin was reportedly traveling on American Airlines flight 5389 leaving from to Kentucky for Charlotte, N.C. with a friend. The pair expected to receive the VIP experience, but to Baldwin’s surprise, her ticket was downgraded to a seat at the back of the plane when the agent scanned her ticket. Her friend, Jane Novack’s ticket, had not been reassigned. Initially, Baldwin wasn’t offered any information regarding the switch, but upon questioning, an attendant explained that she was given a new seat due to the limited number of first class seats on the plane, The Root reports. The passenger was understandably irritated by the mix up, but agreed to go to her new seating. It wasn’t until Novack, whom agreed to join her in the back, was offered yet another seat in first class, did Baldwin grow suspicious with the real reason behind her reassignment.
“I’ve never felt so unimportant my entire life. This flight was the most blatantly racist thing that’s ever happened to me. It was baffling and hurtful that the crew seemed completely aware of what they were doing and just didn’t care. People didn’t seem to trust me and made giant, incorrect assumptions about the relationship between my friend and I,” Baldwin told The Root. “I’m the one who bought the tickets; she was traveling with me—not the other way around. When my ticket was changed and Janet’s was not, I felt like I was being sent to the back of the bus. I just kept wondering if I was in some sort of time warp and asking myself, ‘Is this what it felt like to be black 60 years ago?'”
Novack also unleashed her frustrations on Twitter, saying that American was “prejudiced and ignorant.” “They literally didn’t believe I was flying with a black woman,” she alleged. She later told The Root that the incident made her feel guilty. “Primarily, I feel guilt. There are a million things that I wish I could go back in time and do to help the situation and stand up for Rane,” Novack she said. “There’s absolutely no reason why Rane, an AAdvantage Platinum Select/World Elite cardholder, should have been treated as she was. There is absolutely no excuse for the fact that even after I pointed out the discrimination, all of my questions and concerns have been answered as Rane’s haven’t.”
Baldwin has reportedly launched a formal complaint to American Airlines, but has not heard back, according to The Root. The airlines has not issued a statement regarding the incident yet. In the past year, international airlines have been at the center of viral controversy. American joins Delta and United Airlines accused of discriminating against its POC passengers and inciting violent behavior. Stay tuned for more developments.