Tall tales of airline racism undermine true victims. Prejudice, bigotry, and racism exist, but become lost in a sea of doubt when charlatans fabricate stories of racism. Case in point: a pair of tales about Asian-Americans experiencing racism on two major U.S. airlines. One event really occurred. The other was a cruel ruse that duped many.
Story #1: Fake Racism On American Airlines
You may have heard about a racist phone call an Asian-American passenger claimed to have received from American Airlines. In short:
- The passenger claimed to check-in for his August 18th New York (JFK) – Orange Country (SNA) flight on time, though directly at the 45-minute check-in cutoff
- He was denied boarding even though he had no baggage to check, therefore technically falling under an optional grace period (at the discretion of the agent)
- Though placed on standby, it took two days to get home
- He called American Airlines to voice his complaint over how the situation was handled
- On August 21st, he allegedly received a call from a pair of American Airlines employees, who proceeded to ridicule and harass him over his complaint, also making fun of his Asian heritage by stating:
- “You stupid rice eating c*nt”
- “No wonder you’re named after a d*ck, I should just call you d*ckhead” (his surname is Wang)
The audio is frankly vile and I will not embed it in my story, though you can listen to it here. It’s absolutely demeaning in terms of both racist and obscene language. It’s also likely fake, a product of “The Macron Show” (I didn’t even look it up nor do I want to…that’s according to One Mile at a Time and I’ll take his word for it).
It isn’t clear if Mr. Wang was in on the joke, though it is easy enough to find someone’s number online and use apps like SpoofCard to disguise your caller ID. Wang told Live and Let’s Fly he was an innocent victim after complaining about his flight experience on social media and has no idea how his number was obtained.
Story #2: Real Racism On United Airlines
Which brings us to the true story, personally shared to me by a long-time reader of the blog whom I fully trust and has no motive to fabricate or exaggerate. He is also Asian-American.
On June 23rd, he was traveling from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Houston (IAH) onboard United Airlines flight 1210 and seated in first class. He needed to use the lavatory but the seatbelt light was on. Finally, after about an hour into the flight with not even a bump, he rose from his seat to use the restroom.
But when he stood up to use it, a female flight attendant shook her head and motioned for him to sit down. He was seated in seat 5A and rather than climb over his seatmate in 5B, he took a seat in vacant 7D (the entire row was empty), a bulkhead economy class seat right next to the mid-cabin lavatory.
Most flight attendants won’t put up a fuss, though technically passengers are to remain seated when the seatbelt light is illuminated.
But moments later a white passenger in 4A stood up and approached the same lavatory. Instead of scolding him, the flight attendant smiled and opened the door for him. The seatbelt light was still on.
A few minutes later, an older flight attendant walked past the Asian-American, still patiently waiting to use the lavatory even though nature was calling. He told the flight attendant that he really needed to go, the seatbelt light had been on for over an hour, and another passenger had just used the restroom.
In a blunt reply, the flight attendant responded, “Do you speak English?”
(The passenger had been speaking English, of course)
The flight attendant went on to lecture him about seatbelt protocol in a rude and condescending manner before telling him, like a three-year-old, he could only use the restroom in case of an emergency. It was only then that he grudgingly opened the lavatory door after the passenger verbally confirmed it was indeed an emergency.
So in this case, an Asian-American passenger was not allowed to use the lavatory while a white passenger was…and the Asian-American passenger was talked down to like a child and insulted about his English skills even though he was clearly speaking English.
Such flight attendants do not belong in the sky…
Our tendency is to dismiss or at least be skeptical of all stories of racism when such charges are thrown around so flippantly in today’s culture. Nevertheless, there are real instances that do occur and I believe did occur on that United flight from Fort Lauderdale to Houston. If not because of his Asian-American appearance, then why else would he be scolded while another passenger seated one row in front of him in the same first class cabin was not scolded? That’s the sad story here. And stores like this become more difficult to believe thanks to spoof phone calls and fake stories of racism.