A former NBA player is suing United Airlines for discrimination after an exit row incident onboard a flight to Newark.
Eric Murdock was a on a United flight from Las Vegas to Newark with his son. He was seated just in front the exit row and his son was separated from him. He noticed the exit row was open and asked a flight attendant if he could move. She declined, saying the seats were “premium” but did not offer a price to move to them.
A passenger assigned to the exit row across the aisle from the empty row agreed to switch seats with Murdock (it is not clear who requested the switch, but Murdock is 6-1). But the same FA interdicted the change, instructing both passengers to remain in their assigned seats.
About 30 minutes into the flight, another passenger was moved to the exit row. And here’s where the racism charge originated. The FA was white. The passenger moved to the exit row was white. Murdock is black.
During the beverage service service, Murdock questioned why the lady was allowed to move to the exit row and not him. The FA told him to mind his own business. Passenger Brenda Williams, also black, was sitting across the aisle and asked the FA why she was being so rude to Murdock. She was holding her mobile phone and the FA assumed she was recording her and flipped out.
Erase the video now, or give me your phone! It’s against the law to record me!
But it gets better…
“Or are you going to boycott?”
During the beverage service, the FA asked Murdock what he wanted to drink, but added, “Or are you going to boycott?”
Every lawsuit has a moral and legal dimension. As far as I am concerned, the FA proved herself totally unfit to work in a customer-facing role for making that statement. This was a slap in the face of Murdock.
And it’s not a he-said, she-said, because Williams witnessed the entire incident.
The lawsuit claims that when the flight landed in Newark, the TSA were waiting to question him.
When the plane finally landed, Murdock, a New Jersey native, and Williams were escorted off by security and questioned by armed guards from the Transportation Security Administration, before being allowed to leave without charges.
I don’t know about that. The TSA is not armed, has no jurisdiction to preform post-flight interviews, and cannot detain, arrest or prosecute.
Holes in fact patterns cause me to question larger narratives.
Murdock told the NY Daily News:
In this divisive time people are emboldened to be the worst version of themselves. I never thought that I would personally be in this position, but neither will I back down. If I can use the fame and respect which I have gained to achieve social change I will.
Meanwhile, United has not been served yet and limited its commentary on the case:
At United, we proudly hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. We are looking into the allegations, and because of the pending litigation, we are unable to provide further comment.
The $10MN figure is just a bargaining chip to invite further discussion. I look forward to reading the case, but question Murdock’s legal theory. He received the seat he paid for. There are also many explanations for why the white passengers was moved to the vacant exit row, most notably that she was a MileagePlus elite member.
But setting aside the law and lawsuit, what kind of FA treats passengers like this? How do these bad apples continue to get by? I’ve seen my fair share of grouchy, irritable, and rude FAs over the year. I trust this one has been removed pending investigation.
For the record, United’s onboard photo policy doesn’t prohibit recording events like this. The whole “it’s against the law” statement is garbage.
These stories are so sad. So unnecessary. As best I can, I understand Murdock’s anger that he was treated poorly by a race-baiting flight attendant. Is it too much to ask for flight attendants treat all passengers with dignity and respect, as they would want to be treated? Once again, this is an unforced error that will tarnish the reputation of United because of one rogue employee. United needs to crack down.