R&B Singer Reports Being Threatened Over Boarding With First Class Passengers On American

R&B singer Lyfe Jennings flew American Airlines and recorded his last interaction with the airline as he boarded his flight, being asked whether there would be any issues on the flight – whether he was going to be a troublemaker – after, he says, he was continually questioned over boarding as a first class passenger. He believes the airline’s employees were skeptical that he belonged in first class because he’s black.

I’ve been told that Mr. Jennings first was asked whether he was in fact a first class passenger at the priority check-in line. That’s not unusual per se, though at the same time I’ve never been asked. There was apparently another exchange at the check-in kiosks, so perhaps he wasn’t accommodated in the priority line though he was a first class passenger. His third interaction was at the gate.

According to an American Airlines spokesperson,

Mr. Jenning’s account is troubling and doesn’t align with our values or mission to care for all of our customers. Our team immediately began working to understand what transpired and reached out to him to learn more about his experience.

American met the passenger on arrival at Dallas – Fort Worth and followed up with him after the flight.

While no airline today tries to be more woke than United Airlines, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker wears a Black Lives Matter wristband and lobbies against voting restrictions bills, believing they target people of color. An encounter he had on a Southwest flight last year went viral amidst the nationwide outcry over George Floyd.

Parker seems to sincerely have embraced racial healing after the NAACP’s 2017 travel warning against flying American Airlines which followed Womens March Co-Chair and Louis Farrakhan supporter Tamika Mallory, traveling to Al Sharpton’s daughter’s wedding, being kicked off a flight in a dispute over a seat (she reported changing her middle seat to an aisle on a kiosk, but was denied that aisle seat).

Even if it surprises you that someone is in the first class line at the gate (lots of young people and women report the same – basically if you don’t look like me now that I’m in my 40s), the solution is simple: just have the gate agent check boarding group as they take boarding passes. There’s no reason to confront the passenger while they’re queueing. If a passenger boards with first class and their boarding pass doesn’t say first class (or, now, Executive Platinum too) then bump them out of line.

Of course that doesn’t work as well when there’s just one frazzled agent at the gate working desperately to get the flight out on time. It hadn’t even occurred to me that American’s move to single agent boarding to save money might actually promote racial tensions.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. I was also in the First Class line, behind this *Boy. He was acting like an AH before he even bordered, and continued being a jerk in line. He only started filming at the end, not in the beginning of his tantrum. The truth is, you can have all the money in the world, however money can’t buy Class..I think it’s time for a Black Airline!!!

  2. Hi Huey Judy,

    What you said was racist. Let me break it down.

    Saying someone “looks like a thug” because they are black is racist.

    Black people cannot always shave their faces because their hair type makes them more susceptible to ingrown hairs. Telling a black person to shave their face is racist.

    Telling a black person to look like a “normal American” is racist.

    I hope that you are able to do some reflecting on what you wrote.

  3. Huey is being blatantly racist and Idk if he cares or realizes it (probably doesn’t care either way). He’s ignorant and I mean REALLY ignorant. “Look how I think you should look” “talk how I think you should talk” “my views are the normal ones, the RIGHT ones and everyone else is less than” Huey is one of those garbage people we have to live on earth with but is no more important than dog crap decaying in the sun. He can’t possibly be happy. Don’t try to convince him he’s wrong, it’s pointless. Btw I didn’t sign up for responses because stupid people don’t matter to me and I’m sure there’s ALOT more ignorant racists in line to argue. Byeeeee!

  4. Americans is about individualism. Why would you ask them to look like a normal American?
    What does a normal American look like?
    Bottom line, when you scan the ticket at boarding, if they are not in FC, then ask them to get back in the proper line.
    You can’t judge by looks who is FC & who isnt

  5. When I was in the Army we all had to shave every day. And the Black guys in my platoon had to use a special razor. It’s not racist to tell someone to shave. I get ingrown hairs too and when I want to look particularly presentable I still shave. That being said, you shouldn’t have to shave to fly first class. It’s not like you work at Disney.

    Secondly, I would not typically describe someone as looking like a “thug” but I also would not assume that the description “thug” meant Black. For me that description brings to mind someone wearing their pants off their behind, or 1 pant leg up, or carrying. All things I see people of many colors doing.

    Third, I would not recommend dropping an F word on anyone you want to treat you better or do something for you. When flying in particular I would try using Please, Thank you, Excuse me, and I’m sorry. There are some crazy people out there and frankly working at an airport has got to be stressful and exhausting. Treat them kindly even if you’re in a bad mood or having a bad day. If for no other reason their bad day can cause you to miss your flight or delay you greatly.

  6. @RyanWaldron
    Read your comments. As a whitey I can easily recognize your racist views. Heard all your shit from whiteys like you. Many times. Trying to hide your racism doesn’t work with me. Coming from someone like you it’s not surprising that you’re a real low life.

  7. I love how society stereotypes people who are different. Just because I look different than every other vanilla white person doesn’t make me a trouble maker. Who made these stupid rules? White, middle aged, fat men? Ever notice it’s the white kid who always goes postal or shoots up a school. Maybe us white people need to start worrying about our own and stop harassing the rest of the world of color!

  8. Umm they are asking him if he knows its the first class line because otherwise when boarding starts he will cause a holdup for everyone else at the gate if he isn’t first class and they have to take the time to explain to him that he is in the wrong line. On top of that by that point if he wasn’t a first class passenger he would have to go to the back of the other boarding line and I am certain there have been arguments from passengers when they are told that which would cause additional delays at the gate. Just from his narrative it sounds like he was walking away from the staff, being indignant and actually cursing them out. They had every right to stop him again at the gate to make sure there wasn’t going to be an issue once on the plane. Keep in mind this article is just telling one side of the story and this is the same guy who stalked his girlfriend, fired gunshots in the street outside her family’s home and then got into a high speed chase with police eventually going to prison for a couple of years, so he doesn’t sound like the most calm and reasonable person to start with, but sure lets all jump on the screaming racism bandwagon without having all the evidence just so Gary can get his race baiting clicks.

  9. @Rog: Boy you are a pig headed little racist aren’t you. You admit that you hear the reality that I am telling you over and over again, but your ignorance is still somehow right in your small little mind. Guess what there thicko, the reason you keep hearing it over and over again is you are wrong and it is the truth and reality of the situation. You are just too pig headed, lazy, and egotistical to hear it. Guess what, your ignorance does not mean it is any less the truth. You see how this works? I am calling you out on your own merits….not because you are this color or that race. Just because you are an idiot…..plain and simple. There are idiots of every race and color, you just happen to be one!

  10. Don’t act like a jerk and you won’t get treated like a jerk. Color has nothing to do with it – it is all about the attitude the costumer brings to the counter. Respect is a 2 way street.

  11. The altered right wing nuts, justifying their racist behavior! I had an experience on Jet where I was told I had to use the bathroom in the back of the plane. When there was a bathroom right in front of where I was sitting. The Flight attendant was standing by this bathroom talking to 1 of the pilots, made a statement; like this oh this bathroom is for the pilot? But as I walk to the back a (WHITE WOMAN) entered that very same unoccupied bathroom and yes there were words exchanged because I told her this is not the 30’s 40’s or 50’s 60’s whereas you were told to go to the back of the bus! It takes people like Rosa Parks to stop this privileged B.S. the Airlines are no different. They take your money to keep from going bankrupt, then give you their ass to kiss! All 99.9% of Big businesses practices. the culture of right of passage! People of color will always be last in everything if at all, anything that’s why we had civil War because the race mongers wanted to keep us in bondage and enslaved to them. Many White people have taken except from this placated falsehood. So it’s not surprising we will experience many incidents like this, as we become more divisive! All this Authoritarian B.S. doesn’t fly with many of us anymore! Slavery and Mastership is over and it will never be reversed because they missed the mark now they are mad as hell!

  12. Of course the racist card. Always is… I knew it was before I even read the article.

  13. @Ryan Waldron. I would like to shut up and stop complaining about mistreatment from the past. Problem is, it never stopped. Maybe if you were thought real history and not the made up one, you will get it. Let me give you ab example you can relate to. You probably went to an ok school, you, your grandparents or great grand parents got an inheritance or a loan to start or expand a business that was ultimately passed down to descendants. That is what has created 2 Americas my ignorant friend.

  14. @Bill. I understand when many comment that he should have been polite, it was a honest mistake, normal question to ask…… The problem is POC get asked that a lot in situations where their caucasian friends aren’t. At some point, it starts to get to you and when you show your frustrations, you are called angry.

  15. @Ted – Very very small % of ‘white’ people get / got an inheritance or loan from family to start a business, let alone have a business to pass down to family.

    The grass isn’t as green as some think on the other side if race is used as the defining factor.

  16. @Ted: Again you are an idiot. You are living in a past that you have never experienced, that generations of your family have never experienced….because it has not existed for decades. You are just using a past that you have read or been told about to be worthless and lazy, as an excuse as to why you can’t be bothered to work hard and take the opportunities that everyone has in today’s world. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I was born to a modest working class couple who never used anything in history as an excuse. I was made homeless for almost two years of my young adult life by illness….but I didn’t use that as an excuse. I fought through it, had surgery three times, and have since worked hard to own my own business and become a success in my field and not only earn a life for myself, but for a child I was given guardianship of by the courts because his parents were like you. Couldn’t be bothered…..excuses galore as to why they couldn’t work and provide. I gladly did their job and made sure that he had a chance at a decent life. He just graduated from high school with honors and has earned a scholarship to continue on to college. He never used his very real past as an excuse to not try. He worked hard and has been successful. I have no sympathy for people like you that choose to make excuses for their own laziness, worthlessness in the world. Because that is exactly what your attitude is…..racist laziness used as an excuse to sit idle and be worthless to the society that drags you along with it at its own cost. You can sit and be as self righteous as you like here, nobody of any worth to this world and to humanity as a whole will have any respect for someone like you. Maybe one day you will decide to wake up and change, that is 100% within your power…..but I seriously doubt it myself.

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