Passengers Share Experiences Of Racism In The Air. What To Do If It Happens To You
Photo Credit: Canva

Photo Credit: Canva

Passengers Share Experiences Of Racism In The Air. What To Do If It Happens To You

airlines
Parker Diakite
Parker Diakite Aug 24, 2021

Passenger discrimination complaints have nearly doubled in 2021 compared to the same time last year, many citing facing racism in the air.

58 complaints were filed between January and June 2021 compared to 30 in 2020, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Southwest Airlines has received the most complaints, followed by American Airlines.

Have you wondered what the best course of action is to take after experiencing racism in the air?

It’s a question that has come up as more Black passengers are speaking out about their experiences of “traveling while Black.”

Last month, Angie Jones tweeted what happened when she decided to fly first class with 9 other Black women for a girl’s trip.

“People literally could not process how it was possible,” she tweeted. “Staff tried to send us to regular lines. Passengers made snide remarks. One guy even yelled, ‘are they a higher class of people than I am?!’

What was so jarring to see, in 2021, is that more people detailing, eerily, similar situations of racism in the air from fellow passengers:

“I’m brown and this happened to me,” another Twitter user stated. “I had enough credits to upgrade my flight from SFO to YYZ to biz class. Standing [in] the priority boarding queue, a white man behind me told me I may be in the wrong queue. Showed him my boarding pass, aisle seat at row 1. He shut up quick.”

But it can also come from flight attendants and airline staff:

“REAL TRUTH!! One time in first-class, the flight attendant who *just served me orange juice* asked me if I was in the right section when a little later as I stood up to use the 1st class restroom,” another Twitter user replied.  “That means: 1) she didn’t actually see me 2) I looked like I don’t belong there.”

“I’ve sometimes upgraded to first-class when I need to do work on a long flight. Passengers asking me if I know I am in the first-class boarding group. LOL,” another Twitter user added. “The flight attendants also at times give lesser service. Black women in first class upset the expected racial hierarchy.”

What are your rights if you feel discriminated against?

The DOT encourages anyone who believes that they have been discriminated against to file a consumer complaint.  

“Airlines must carry out their responsibility to provide safe and secure air travel in a non-discriminatory manner,” DOT states. “Federal law prohibits airline personnel such as customer service personnel or flight crews from discriminating against airline passengers based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), or ancestry.”

According to Frommer’s, the DOT sends allegations of sexual misconduct to the FBI for investigation. An attorney is brought in to review disability and discrimination complaints.