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.