Airline travel turned into a racist encounter with an uncaring flight crew for one Black woman. Rane Baldwin is an AAdvantage Platinum Select/World Elite cardholder and was traveling with her White friend Janet Novack from Kentucky to Charlotte. Because of her membership status, Baldwin upgraded her tickets to first class for the flight.
However, when she attempted to board the plane into first class, she was assigned a seat in the rear of the plane, while Novack, who holds no special membership, was allowed to go to first class. Baldwin was told her seat had been reassigned because there weren’t enough first class seats available. Baldwin claims when she asked the flight crew questions, she was ignored while her White friend was treated with courtesy.
She posted to Twitter:
It’s actually amazing how much racism I’ve experienced on @AmericanAir this morning for sitting with a friend. Like genuinely amazing.
— Janet Novack (@janetnovack_) May 2, 2017
Novack went on to tweet, “The whole reason that I was flying first class was because I was associated with her and her reservation. They were ignoring the cardholder.”
Since the flight, which occurred on May 2, 2017, there has been an outrage over the situation and the story has been shared on social media. Baldwin stated to one media outlet, “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 me. 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?’ ”
American Airlines responded to the public relations issue with the following:
“We have reviewed the allegations, and no discrimination occurred. After a flight was canceled, an agent inadvertently provided two first class seats to Ms. Baldwin and Ms. Novack. The passengers were not ticketed for the first class cabin, and a formal upgrade was not processed. (i.e. they were never charged/miles were not deducted.) The next day, the agent working the flight realized the error, since we were short one seat in the first class cabin. Instead of removing both passengers from first class, we permitted the passenger who was “upgraded” in error first, to remain in the first class cabin as a gesture of goodwill. Ms. Novack was the passenger who was upgraded in error first. We have apologized to both passengers for the confusion, and explained how the issue occurred — which was an error on our part.”
However, Baldwin disagrees and posted to Facebook, “Lies. Literal lies. American Airlines has failed to address my concerns. A week ago, Customer Relations left me a voicemail saying they received my complaint and had started an investigation. I haven’t heard back from them since. American Airlines has continued to prioritize communicating with Janet — -who has heard from American multiple times — and commenting to select media outlets over making efforts to resolve things with me. It’s very clear that American Airlines is concerned with the optics of appearing discriminatory, but I’m not convinced that they see a problem with discrimination in and of itself.”