American Airlines Passenger Sat In An Empty First Class Seat: ‘They Made Me Move For Someone White’

A passenger saw an empty first class seat on American Airlines – and took it for herself. She got booted from the seat, though. It had been assigned to a passenger that was checked in but who didn’t make the flight. They probably were on a connecting flight that arrived late. This happened to me on Wednesday.

When a first class seat winds up empty because the passenger with a boarding pass to sit there doesn’t show up (technically 15 minutes prior to departure, but before doors close), gate agents are supposed to find the next person eligible to sit in that seat. Ideally they will go onto the plane, find that passenger seated in band and bring them up.

Some gate agents don’t bother doing this, perhaps afraid that the crucial minutes might delay pushback – and even one minute may get them yelled at by a manager.

The self-upgrading woman was black. The passenger American made her give up her seat in front of the (Air?)bus was black. The passenger being moved up was white. She was asked to go to what she says was “the back of the bus” to her assigned 14A. She objected and she was invited to get off the plane and onto the jet bridge to discuss her concerns.

She wasn’t being removed from the flight. She was given the option to fly, but after experiencing what she presumed to be racism she expressed her discomfort at returning to the cabin.

The airline explained that the gate agent processed the upgrade list to determine who gets the seat. They explained elite status, which the passenger was unfamiliar with. To her, the 25 flights this year means she’s an important customer so shouldn’t they be upgrading her?

  • The passenger became upset in response to being offered to get back on the plane
  • The employee offered to get her bag off the plane
  • Then she objected to being ‘kicked off the plane,’ she didn’t say she wanted to get off the plane she said she felt uncomfortable.
  • Then she started yelling, because she’d been embarrassed in front of other passengers after being moved out of a seat for white passengers.
  • And she declared she would not get back on the plane because she was embarrassed.

It’s actually understandable that a passenger might think they could take any open seat on the aircraft once boarding appeared to complete, and that used to be the case within one’s class of service (before airlines started selling premium seats for extra money). But if she’s flown 25 segments this year, it’s surprising she thought she could take an upgrade seat for herself – although certainly not impossible.

At the same time, the American Airlines upgrade algorithm doesn’t include race as a tie-breaking factoring when determining upgrades or clearing passengers off standby.

(HT: Live and Let’s Fly)

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. If this person has flown 25 times this year than she knows one sits in the seat assigned to them. Also, how would this frequent traveler know if the first class seat was not going to be occupied? I typically fly first class and have boarded late for a variety of reasons.

    American should penalize this individual for this charade, which I’m sure will lead to some extortion attempt on her part.

  2. It might be time to start discerning videos posted by entitled loudmouth ignorant black women like this from actual newsworthy events. I can’t believe I fell for watching this crap video, but stopped when I heard “status, what’s status mean?”. Just another random loudmouth idiot looking for a Ben Crump opportunity.

  3. Sorry, I had to watch the rest of the video. Bad idea. If people like her wonder why it “seems” like everyone loathes them, this is a perfect example. They do.

  4. I don’t understand why, if she had returned to her seat 14A, she was then pulled from her seat because she hadn’t returned to her seat 14A? That doesn’t make sense. The AA rep acknowledges she had returned to her seat 14A. So, why was he telling her she hadn’t followed the rule, ie, returned to her seat?

  5. Let’s play “The Race Card Game”! First you sit in a place NOT assigned to you. Your boarding pass has a seat number, but you believe that has no significance, even though you state you have taken 25 flights. SO, did you sit wherever you wanted on all of those 25 flights? You state you did not know about the assigned seat factor. You were asked to go to your assigned seat. Next, you pull out my “Race Card” and declare I am being discriminated against by having to “sit in the back of the bus”. Ah yes, the “Jim Crow” airline policy. (we all know airline seats are assigned based on race)
    You then cause a disturbance over being asked to go to your assigned seat, causing the crew to delay their departure, and when asked to step out for a private (not to involve the entire plane overhearing). You then keep talking and not listening to the LOGICAL explanation of how the assigned seating procedure works you keep arguing that it is not fair and is racist.
    You are then given the ONLY two options that are available and take the option to leave the plane (not once but several times). Then, complain you are being “kicked off the plane”.
    We can ALL see she is 100% right in all areas of this discussion.

  6. I wish I could say it was a rare, isolated incident when someone behaves poorly, then cries racism when being called out for their poor behavior. Is anybody ever punished for doing this? No? Are people often rewarded? Yep. So expect more, until civilized society grows a backbone.

  7. Gees! Self upgrading? One should have the courtesy to ask the nearest flight attendant…….

    You shouldn’t just go for it on your own…

  8. Some people may call this “Black Privledge” when some people of color take things that don’t belong to them. When I say people of color I mean white, black, brown, red, purple, green or whatever color they identify with on any given day.

  9. This self-upgrading person clearly doesn’t know how to behave. It has NOTHING to do with skin color, whether you’re white, black, red, yellow, or green… It has EVERYTHING to do with your personal parental upbringing.

  10. I found nothing in her story compelling. Just another person trying to take something that was not theirs. I’ve seen this on Air Asia where people try to upgrade to the exit row seats while in the air. The flight attendants always make them go back to their assigned seats. If they pay the extra for those seats, they can get those seats.

  11. I don’t see 14A as the back. On an upcoming trip my son and I are farther back than that. I don’t try to handle issues like an upgrade myself. I leave that to the airline employees. I do ask if I have a request or question.

  12. So the self upgrader did go back to 14A after the first FA made her. But then she was called up to get a lecture from, I guess, the Purser. Why? It was over.

  13. The time I get caught stealing a car, I’m going to tell the judge I just “self upgraded”.

  14. Article obviously written by AI as the grammar makes zero sense….do they think we are stupid making this stuff up to try to sell a fake story?

  15. While we are making wild assertions based on personal characteristics, how about this — she felt she was entitled to that seat because she was a Democrat.

    Worse, this article, the headline, keep up the campaign rhetoric that “you are racist, vote for me”.

  16. She was flying AA. She thought that stood for African American or Affirmative Action.

  17. These comments come from some incredibly racist people.. it’s shocking what people will post about an entire group of people (based on a video of one woman who had a fit on a plane), when it’s a relatively anonymous forum. These posters probably try to hide their racism from people they interact with in person.

  18. Self-upgrading should never be allowed. It is a nice way of saying she took a better seat on her own, which she did not purchase. The airline has an upgrade system in place, and the seat was not hers to take; the upgrade went to someone else. Race was never an issue until she made it an issue because she did not get her way and then she embarrassed herself, and was ashamed to face the other passengers after creating such a scene over nothing of substance.

  19. SHE is racist and a habitual liar and a thief. IF she flew 25 flights on ANY airline this year: she knows better than to sit in ANY seat that she didn’t pay for/reserve. SHE was “assuming” alot and “profiling” him and the other employees. SHE was ONLY one yelling and not letting anyone talk. SHE was further embarrassing HERSELF and extending the delay of hundred of people. Girl BYE! This is not Your 15 mind of fame. I hope You lost that “booking”.

  20. I was only commenting on what people have posted about black people. You can read the comments for yourself.
    I don’t think the woman on the plane made intelligent choices, just noticing how racist the comments have been.

  21. If she really has flown 25 flights this year, then she would know how the first class upgrade list works. She took a risk to self-upgrade, and now doesn’t want to face the music for her selfish actions after being caught.

  22. The only embarrassment is a entitled black lady that thinks rules don’t apply to said black lady!

  23. Totally with you David. They gotta make it about race incase it pays off.
    Ben Crump gotta have a fine crib.

  24. Wow, one person does an ugly act and it’s free reign for everybody to spew their racist hatred endlessly. The score seems to be one person trying to get a self upgrade and hundreds showing their true inner selves. Kind of shows why she feels singled out. If you truly had a problem with just her act, you would’ve said, so, without the racist comments and stereotypes. Instead, you add to the repression of fellow, non-self upgrading, Americans in their own country.

  25. @Margaret Preston

    SHE is the one that made it about race. Not anyone here, but her. Once she did that, game on. It’s absurd that you think people shouldn’t mention the racial factor when this only exists as a story in the first place because the woman tried to make this a Rosa Park moment.

    The best thing about all these progressive white female scolds is they generally are only willing to practice their tolerance from the comfort of their lily-white community, where the most diversity in their lives is the lawn guy and cleaning lady.

  26. When people say “People Of Color”, do they not realize that we are all people of various colors? Look at a box of 64 Crayons: There is a white crayon. If it isn’t a color, then what’s it doing in the box of crayons?

  27. I rather suspect this is the sort of thing we see so often reported as “discrimination”–somebody sees an outcome that favors a white person over a black person and scream “racism” without considering there might be other factors of which they are unaware or do not understand the importance of. This is by no means only a black thing, I’ve seen plenty of examples of white people claiming that something was racism for the same reason.

  28. Gary –

    Don’t try to sugar coat it. It’s not understandable that she would think she can upgrade herself. Everyone knows the costs associated with first class and that airlines don’t let any idiot just walk into those seats.

    This cow saw and opportunity to cry loudly and get free stuff. She comes from an entitled culture and tried to use race to get more free things on top of being a criminal.

  29. This article seems made up. How could the person who wrote this know what the conversation was both on and off the plane?

  30. @Crayon Carl
    > When people say “People Of Color”, do they not realize that we are all people of various colors? Look at a box of 64 Crayons: There is a white crayon. If it isn’t a color, then what’s it doing in the box of crayons?

    Not only that, but black is not a color, it’s the absence of color. Thus blacks are the only people who are not of color. (Not that any true black people exist. They’re dark, they’re not black. Cats and dogs sometimes come in black, not people.)

  31. Even a pasty white boy like me can pick out the filthy racist comments here. They don’t even try to disguise them anymore. So it’s important to hear from a white midwesterner that this is one of the truest tests of character and many of you have a character as low as that of your leader who’s empowered you with this new level of racism to begin with. Filthy!

  32. Even a pasty white boy like me can pick out the filthy racist comments here. They don’t even try to disguise them anymore. So it’s important to hear from a white midwesterner that this is one of the truest tests of character and many of you have a character as low as that of your leader who’s empowered you with this new level of racism to begin with. Filthy!

  33. Classic example of ongoing fake racism … please ban this individual from flying they are dangerous

  34. Ben Crump is an American patriot and one of the top civil-rights lawyers in the country. He has won thousands to millions of dollars for his clients of various ethnicities, and has effected changes to many police departments across the nation. Most Americans don’t understand their own civil rights and how often we allow the government–specifically the police to freely intrude upon them. You can call out the uneducated and unruly passenger without needing to disparage an entire race or a lawyer who often advocates for the powerless.

  35. For those not understanding why Gary would post this, it may be informational to people who are unaware about so many topics discussed in the post and the accompanying video.
    1. Let’s say she has flown 25 times this year. It’s clear she is not informed about airline-loyalty programs. Perhaps now someone reading this article will now sign up for a loyalty program, and start getting free upgrades.
    2. First-class upgrades happen in multiple ways: Purchase, Loyalty, and last-minute customer-service shift (i.e. single person gets moved into first-class, so a married couple or family can sit together in coach). These are the ones I know of. Perhaps this will educate others as to why you just can’t move seats–especially into an upper class.
    3. Moving seats without permission–especially prior the plane taking off–is against policy–and possibly the law. In case of an emergency, the crew needs to know who was sitting where.
    4. She seems to have been given an unnecessary lecture. She may have started the event, but it appears the staff extended and escalated the event despite her returning to her original seat. Her foolishness embarrassed her enough, but she can own that, but then being pulled off the plane for a lecture seems excessive.

  36. BLAH BLAH BLAH…Lady, shut your mouth! You decided to move yourself to first class. Doesn’t work! Woman claims to be. embarrassed…well…guess who caused it! Her behavior was disgusting..and…14A is not the “back of the bus”, although that’s where she clearly belongs.

  37. That guy deserves a promotion, I would have lost my temper pretty quick dealing with that hysterical woman.

  38. As a flight attendant I have dealt with this many times and it always ends the same. It’s either back to your originally assigned seat or off the plane your choice.

  39. What an ignorant viewpoint, I hope ur virtue signaling gets you what u want in life soon cause it’s reached the limit of what people will endure. Funny how no one comes to the realization that ignorance is the common denominator, not racism.

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