African American Passenger Stands His Ground in Priority Boarding at Washington National Airport

On Tuesday an African American man departing Washington National airport was in the priority line for boarding when – he reports – the woman behind him told him he was in the wrong place.

He told her he was in first class so he was in the right place. Apparently she persisted, complaining about the airline boarding military personnel with priority, “we paid for our seats so he still should have to wait.”

The man continues,

Me: nope to big to ever be in anybodies military. I’m just a nigga with money 💰

Everybody waiting in line: starts to clap lmao

Washington National’s Gate 35 ‘X’ — Fight the Power

His Facebook post has gone viral, with about a quarter million shares so far and over 360,000 likes.

The assumption here that most people seem to be making is that the woman is racist. And she may be. But she also may just be:

  1. incredibly entitled and self-important, while
  2. making (poor) assumptions about how the man is dressed

He doesn’t appear to fit the profile of the ‘businessman’. Remember too that this is Washington DC, perhaps the primary city in the country where formal business attire still prevails.

When Lucky from One Mile at a Time was much younger he flew Turkish first class and a business class passenger tried to shove past during boarding,

As we were trying to board a passenger came up behind my brother and said “excuse me, I’m in business class.” Oh no he didn’t….

On Flyertalk there was a 79 page thread in the old Continental Airlines forum on ‘looking young while being elite’ and the different treatment younger flyers received from airline staff, especially when flying up front.

Goodness knows that female business travelers have their own stories.

Airline travel is exceptionally small-d democratic. It brings together all sorts of passengers from different backgrounds, and all sorts of employees (with over 100,000 employees apiece the largest airlines have individuals bringing their own varied baggage as well). And that means different cultures, different life experiences, different short cuts for sizing up people and different prejudices.

I guess all I can say to this gentleman by way of comfort, I suppose, is to be grateful he didn’t look Muslim. Muslim passengers have it far worse than anyone else in this country.

And good for him for getting the crowd on his side — that’s what gives me the most hope, that the woman’s opinion was apparently a minority one.

(HT: Southern Points)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary,

    As a technical matter, DCA is in Virginia 😉 And while the Hill may be full of suits, I assure you the tech crowd in NoVA ain’t so prissy.

  2. I see this all the time when I fly business class. Self entitled people pushing their way ahead of everyone else, even cutting the line. Why not patiently wait behind others in the priority line? When the announcement for boarding is made we all can move forward to board. Be kind to others as I am sure you want them to be kind to you.

  3. This lady is a moron for many reasons –
    For anyone who knows 35x @ DCA, it does not matter one iota who “boards” first, since all it gets you is a long time squeezed in like cattle for the bus ride to the aircraft. In fact, getting on the bus last will usually place you near the door of the bus and get you on your regional metal tube first.

  4. The female bitch is either racist or entitled or both. The fact that she assumed he wasn’t first class is bad enough…for whatever reason, his color or his youth. The fact that he said and showed he was a first class passenger and she seemed unwilling to accept that suggests she was racist, after all. After all, assuming he must be military and not first class—despite him showing her his first class boarding pass—has less to do with youth and everything to do with him being black. And we all know it.

    This white racist bitch just couldn’t believe that a black man could be in first class. She ain’t so bright, either…since she obviously couldn’t read his boarding pass.

    Karma is a bitch…and so is she. She got what she deserved, and I hope many hundreds of people who know her, work with her, and socialize with her will never let her forget it. Karma.

  5. @Adam – to be clear I chose 35X as the image (1) because it represents all that DCA is, and (2) for the Malcolm ‘X’ reference.. get it?

    They were not waiting at gate 35X.

    Apologies for the confusion.

  6. Likely just self entitled but how do we know he was even telling the truth? Just wondering. We just accept whatever anyone posts to social media as fact.

  7. Agree with Bill and Total. She’s a fkkng racist. 100%. And I’m an old white dude. I’ve seen plenty like her.

  8. She obviously rarely flies first class. You might see one or two people wearing business suits but the rest are in jeans and sweats (and not uncommon to see folks in shorts and flip flops in the summer). Often, I see teenagers who look like they just got off school. No way you can profile who has priority boarding and who doesn’t. Besides, even if he is military, come on, don’t you think our soldiers deserve the courtesy of getting on with priority. Most likely, they’re sitting in economy so they won’t be holding up the line like the slow pokes in FC. The lady is a loser and a poser.

  9. The Female is a Racist, Ignorant and pretty much a Clueless Self Entitled Bitch that needs to be knocked down a few notches. TRUE Karma would have been to have the Self Annointed Royalty to be seated Next to The Brother, lol.( And IF that would have happened I would hope He would Trash talk Her to the Point of where She resorts to Crying…..we know How That factors In). I would have Switched Seats with Him to Put Her Ass in Her Place. Total Douche’.

  10. Perhaps it could be written off as some other form of stupidity if she would have shut up after being told he was in first class, but since she did not it’s pretty obvious what was going on in her head. I wouldn’t have handled the situation very well…seems like he did a good job.

  11. “Airline travel is exceptionally small-d democratic.” Ummm? What is this even supposed to mean? It’s like being able to afford a Ford, Caddy, or Rolls (Y, J, F). If you can pony up the money, you get the better experience.

    And that’s not even including the fact that many people with elite status or flying premium cabins do so on OPM.

    This was a nice post that you derailed with commentary that obscures the fact that the more money you can pony up, the better the flying experience.

  12. We don’t have facts it’s what went down (the downside of social media shaming) but let’s take it at face value…

    Good for him with a reasoned response. Her pressing the matter was terrible.

    I don’t know why, but in my non scientific sample set of travel flights to/from DCA/IAD tend to get a bigger share of entitled feeling folks. And that’s using NYC as a base of comparison.

  13. Gary you might as well say car buying is “smal d democratic” or grocery shopping (whole paycheck) is “smal d democratic” or buying clothes is “smal d democratic” or buying (insert whatever) is “smal d democratic”

  14. Her interactions and comments were racist. If he were a middle-aged white man, she wouldn’t have said the same thing. (Note that I am NOT saying she is a racist person. I am saying her comments are racist. I think making this distinction is really important.) .

    @Gary: The fact that you can’t acknowledge that that this is a racist act is problematic. This has all the signs of white fragility written all over it (Google “White Fragility” if you’re unclear what this term means.)

  15. “…perhaps the city in the country where formal business attire still prevails.”

    You missed a word there, Gary.

  16. I agree the lady was probably racist. But the whole issue of gate lice is infuriating!

    At EWR last week there was a line of 6 people. I stood at the end. Well the 1-3 were BG1 and 4-6 were BG2. WTF?

    And I’ve had the opposite happen: insert myself where I think the cutoff is and cut other BG1 pax (they are always very nice and say “no you go ahead” for some reason). Sheer madness!

    My absolute fav FT thread of all time:

  17. Gary that just means that a metro area has one airport. Instead of airport, if you went to the huge outlet mall an hour from DTW, you’d see the same “different folks thrown together both different backgrounds and bringing their baggage” in line at MK or apple store or , in case of an outlet near YYZ, some crazy brand i’d never heard of.

  18. It might’ve helped if he had said “I’m in first class “rather than just waving his ticket in front of her face assuming she would read it. It’s possible she did not see that it said first class.

    The problem of open racism in America has indeed greatly worsened due to you-know-who, but that may not be the primary problem in this instance

  19. She’s prejudging him and was quickly shown her place with the boarding pass. Solid for him, sad for her.

    I get this all the time. 50 YO white male, ponytail and baseball cap with torn jeans and t-shirts sometimes with dried paint on them. I have flown in the pointy end all year due to WFBF or upgrades that clear many days out. I always get “the look” from suit jockeys but I just smile and look away. Had to pull the same boarding pass check a few times in the queue as well. When we are exiting and I get the Porsche pick up dressed like that I’m pretty sure heads pop.

    Don’t prejudge.

  20. If she thought he was in the military and still made a comment that she should board first because she paid for her seat is my real problem with this story. Their sacrifice to our country is worth you boarding before him. Seriously?

  21. Hi Gary. Kirk from Austin. We’ve met a few times at airports. I get this all the time. I have a heavy beard and often change out of business attire while traveling. I’m usually dressed in an old t-shirt and jeans. I constantly get the excuse me I’m about to board you don’t belong in this line mentality. It doesn’t bother me much these days, but it’s definitely a thing. I hope this lady was just a snob and not a racist. Good for this guy for holding his ground. I’ve seen this too many times. Once had a guy cut in front of me in the line to get into the LAX Admiral’s Club. He told me it’s fine I’m an Exec Plat. I told him that’s great me too get in line like the rest of us.

  22. What most Americans don’t realize is that this is what the whole Trump disaster is about. A solid third (turd) of the country are filthy racists who have decided that before they will accept modernity and equality they will blow the whole thing up. So the politicians they’ve sent to DC and polciies they’ve pushed are designed to wreck everything, even at their own expense. Underlying it all is such unheard-of stupidity that people will foul their own nest, leave their own kids without health care just to spite the liberals they hate so much.

    Hate is the operative word in America, the reason why after Bush they started teaching in the modern nations’ schools that we are in decline, ruined by the stupidest people on the planet being played by the most evil right wing in history. Welcome to redneck ruin. Yeehaw!

    If you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I escaped these people 40 years ago to modernity which I got to enjoy for a decade before they started coming for us via talk radio and Faux News. Now they are in full control and the ruin is almost finished.

  23. my daughter had a similar event when she was flying home from Scotland on a Delta One flight (booked with sky miles last minute due to a student visa crisis…(so they are not always worthless…)). The woman behind her told her she was in the wrong line and needed to move out of the way as this was for “sky priority” (so this person was actually in the way of premium boarding!) My sweet daughter said she “pretty womaned” her as she went right on boarding ahead of her with a big smile on her face!

  24. Sounds pretty racist but this also happens to me all the time and I’m a white blond 41 year old. I’m Exec Plat, 1K, SQ Gold, TK Gold, and MU Gold but don’t dress up for flights (computer programmer). Sometimes when people ask me if I’m an elite member I go through my travel wallet with all my elite cards and say “Which airline is this again? Oh yeah I’m elite here.”

  25. The woman is obviously some selfish Donald Trump or Roy Moore supporter. Who else would make such a rude comment to someone that they don’t know? The guys net worth is probably a lot more than hers. Even If he was in the wrong line someone at the counter should tell him not another passenger who thinks because he doesn’t look like her he should be in the basic economy line.

  26. It’s as much stereotyping to assume politics from someone’s attitude as it is to assume one’s place in a plane from their race, dress or any other external item. And that is what is pulling America apart. All of this is harmful to our nation and to our place in civilization.

    And, no, don’t try to blame people of a different political persuasion (whatever is different from you). If you can’t listen civilly to them, they won’t listen civilly to you.

  27. Personally I love when someone assumes I don’t belong in whatever airport line I’m in because it gives me an opportunity to prove them wrong. It’s a sweet revenge of comparing the boarding passes to see whose is better. I’m usually wearing jeans button down shirt and dusty sneakers. Most of my travel is Europe Middle East and Asia in First. All for fun so I never have nice clothes with me. I show up with a back pack looking like a beach bum.
    I’m white male in my 30s. Arabs Asians just assume I don’t belong. Social status is a big deal in those countries.
    Last time in Abu Dhabi an Arab airline staff told me I was in the wrong line as I was preparing to board A380 Apartment to London. He just assumed and was rather dismissive appearing of me. So I silently flashed by first class boarding pass at him and gave him a dirty look. His face along with the entire body demeanor instantly changed. I suppose in his country very bad things could happen to him if he just looks the wrong way at someone important.
    I wouldn’t say he was racist towards me. It’s just based on his experience guys who look like me don’t often appear in business/first line of Etihad A380.
    Americans are the confounding variable in the world of high social class societies of Europe Middle East and Asia. You can always tell a rich European from someone who is just “aspiring”. With Americans it’s much harder. You can easily meet a slob dressed in latest Walmart couture who is worth a few million.

  28. I fly for work regularly (four to five flights a week, three weeks a month, ten months a year) and I’ve been asked more than once if I belong in first class. For the record I’m an Indian man in his early 30s, and I travel in a suit. Freaking ridiculous.

  29. I’m a middle-aged (often assumed to be much younger due to my looks & clothes) white (on occasion assumed to be mixed race or Latino) guy, and I have been “profiled” by passengers and airline staff many times regarding my place in line or on the plane. Most recently, a woman approached me in the priority line and said, “this is the first class line, are you in first class?” “Yes,” I replied….”are you?”

    I can’t say if this woman is an out-and-out Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III style racist, but I have no doubt that his race played a part in her profiling him. People do that based on a combination of things in many walks of life: presumed age, race, social status, income all play a factor. If this gentleman had been white, or wearing a suit, maybe she would not have commented. Regardless, his response was spot-on.

    As to those commenting who decried the woman as a “racist bitch,” can I suggest that your anti-racism message might be a tad more effective if you eliminate the sexist comments?

  30. Andrew above blames the victim. Now that’s racist. The woman was probably coming from a meeting with Trump at the White House

  31. Why does everyone feel the need to promote looking like a slob? It is pervasive everywhere…first, restaurants, church. You can be casual yet comfortable and not be a pig. I am so sick of sitting next to people, typically men, with flip flops on their filthy disgusting feet, or with stinky clothing. On an AA flight in first this year a dishelveled looking 20 ish girl traveling with her parents put her filthy bare feet eye level on the bulkhead accross the aisle from me. Neither her parents nor the FA said anything. I told the FA and she said they have been told to excuse such behavior in first. She finally said something to the girl, which caused the parents to make nasty comments to me. What happened to manners???

  32. Wow, this woman was rude, inappropriate, self-entitled and ignorant. However, all the comments angrily calling her a bitch are scary too. Misogyny is not a great way to counteract racism.

    Showing the person who was treated rudely support is so much stronger of a message than attacking the attacker. The applause in line was the right way to go!

  33. I think we can agree the woman was not polite . Maybe other descriptions apply or maybe not .
    Since I have spent most of my life being “just plain folks ” I would not think of being conceited over my plane ticket . Saying “After You ” is still valuable . Of course regardless of when you sit down the plane leaves at the same time for everybody .

  34. Well, I’ll agree with the person who posted that we don’t actually know what happened. But as for entitlement — which is probably more colorblind than anything else in our culture — is this not a value that is actively supported by airlines? Isn’t that what frequent flyer programs are all about?

  35. I travel in casual (comfortable) clothing, even when flying overseas in biz or first class, but I don’t look like a slob. I would never think to question someone else’s right to be in “my” line. If the woman in the story isn’t racist, she’s offensive and nasty–at best.

  36. Pretty sad commentary here when many are assuming the political affiliation of people.

    From the info posted, the woman was rude, and classless. We’ve all seen that in airports, on planes, at hotels, and restaurants. We’ve also seen charitable people, too.

    Me, I believe karma will take care of things.

    Social media these days reveals the worst and best of society these days.

  37. there’s plenty of folks who ride first class who look low class, and plenty who ride business class who dont look like they are up to anything except funny business.

  38. She is either a Millennial or in that 20-40 age group. When I worked for an airline, I would have rather dealt with a terrorist than them. Self entitled and completely incapable of handling any bad news like delay or cancellation.

  39. When there are morons like @Greg that makes this World such a horrible place to live in it is no wonder that there are not more morons like @Greg. The obamler regime and obamler caused this whole mess and that’s why the demonRATS were voted out. America is NOT a socialist nation. We got along just fine from 1776 until 2010 without government getting involved in our health care system and hopefully we can go another 200+ years without government interference. This whole mothering from the cradle to the grave is what has made this Country’s citizens feel so entitled. Before the obamler regime it was never this bad.Now that all the young people feel that they are entitled to everything FREE (there is no such thing as free–somebody has to pay) every time something does not go their way they whine like the little sissies they are. This Nation has always been a Nation that was made by the hard work and effort of our citizens. The “RICH” cannot pay for everything so get off your fat asses and EARN your way. Stop expecting someone to just give you everything while you sit back and play videos games in your mother’s basement.

  40. WOW! Thank you for that spew of hatred, ignorance and bigotry. Have yourself a very RIGHTeous Christmas. The Repubicans ( Donald Dump) are doing such a WONDERFUL job and setting the bar at a new (low) level.

  41. That’s why i like the boarding system on SouthWest. .. it avoids me leaving my wife hanging on vacation because some idiot tried me that way! i have to check people all the time on Delta priority. . Because they try to cut in line.

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