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article imageAmerican Airlines accused of racism in woman's seat downgrade

By Arthur Weinreb     May 16, 2017 in Travel
A black woman, who was travelling with her white friend, is accusing American Airlines of racial discrimination after she was bumped from first-class. The airline has apologized but said the decision to downgrade her seat was not based on her race.
Rane Baldwin, who is black, was travelling with her white friend, Jane Novack. Baldwin had booked tickets to fly from Louisville, Kentucky to Charlotte, North Carolina on May 2. Earlier, the tickets Baldwin purchased had been upgraded to first-class.
When the women arrived at the gate, their boarding passes were scanned by an agent. While Novack was assigned a seat in first-class, Baldwin was given a seat at the back of the plane. She was not told why until she questioned the agent. The agent told her the aircraft had been changed and the plane American Airlines was then using had less first-class seats than did the original aircraft.
In an interview with The Root, Baldwin claimed the discrimination extended beyond just the change in seats. She told the publication after the pair boarded the plane, Baldwin asked a flight attendant for an explanation but was ignored. But when Novack asked the same questions, she was given a much fuller explanation of what had transpired.
Although Baldwin was assigned a seat at the back of the plane, there were empty rows near the front of the aircraft, although not in first-class. Baldwin told The Root, “I’ve never felt so unimportant in my whole life.” She said she was the one who bought the tickets and believes the airline made incorrect assumptions that she was travelling with Novack, not the other way around. Baldwin added she felt like she was in a time warp and being sent to the back of the bus. She asked herself, “Is this what it felt like to be black 60 years ago?"
Novack was just as angry, noting her friend held an AAdvantage Platinum Select/World Elite card and should have not been treated as she was. Novack agreed she received full answers to her questions while Baldwin did not.
Novack left first-class and both women sat together in the empty rows near the front of the plane.
Fox News reports a spokesperson for American Airlines told the network the company reached out to Baldwin to apologize. According to the airline, what happened was as a result of “agent error” and the company is working with the agent to prevent this situation from ever happening again.
American also said the two women were never charged for first-class seats; they were upgraded at no cost after their initial flight was cancelled. According to the airline, Novack was allowed to remain in first-class because her ticket was processed first.
This is not the only recent occasion in which American Airlines has been accused of racial discrimination. In April, a Korean man launched a lawsuit against American claiming he was bumped from a flight at the gate while several white people in line behind him were allowed to board.
READ ALSO: Korean man sues American Airlines for discrimination in bumping
Baldwin wrote a letter of complaint to American Airlines while Novack took to Twitter to complain about what happened. Again, the women noted Novack’s tweets were responded to immediately by American asking for more details and contact information while Baldwin had not heard back from the airline.
Baldwin wants an admission of wrongdoing and an apology. She will then decide if she will take further action.
More about American airlines, seat downgraded, Racism, Racial discrimination, firstclass seat
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