United Airlines Reseats Passenger Who Wouldn’t Sit Next to a Black Woman

On Saturday 16 year old Taylor Richardson reports that she flew United flight UA2369 from Denver to Jacksonville, Florida. She’s black, and says the white man assigned to sit beside her refused to sit next to her because of her race. He flagged down a United flight attendant, who then apparently changed his seat.

I absolutely think it’s fair to make sure that Ms. Richardson didn’t have to sit next to this man for the 3 hour 10 minute flight. Notably though he was reaccommodated into another seat on the same flight, rather than being told since he’s expressed his unwillingness to take his assigned seat he’ll have to take a seat on the next flight (United flies Denver – Jacksonville just once daily).

Here’s how to handle precisely this situation:

Since this happened on United there’s also this less subtle approach.

I have to imagine though that first class was full. Surely she shouldn’t have to sit next to the idiot who asked to be moved. Could the 16 year old have been moved to Economy Plus at least?

Oddly – or perhaps not – the same thing happened on Spirit Airlines in July.

(HT: Benet Wilson)

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’m concerned that, as of now, we seem to have literally no facts or accounts from 3rd parties or the flight attendant to know what was actually said and if race was the reasoning for the request to move. I’m not trying to dispute her account of things, but misunderstandings can and do happen, and I’d hate for someone to be publicly labeled a racist if that wasn’t actually the motivator.

  2. Yes, because people insist on being moved all the time when they see a black woman.

    Of course he might have just told the flight attendant his seat was “bleak” not that she was “black” and of course flight attendants are caught off guard all the time like this because passengers are never unhappy in United economy.

  3. What happens if you’re seated next to someone who’s so big they intrude on your seat? I would assume no one else would be willing to switch seats next to them, so do they get kicked off?

  4. More facts would be helpful. It would be interesting to hear United’s response. If race was the reason; it would be helpful to know the name of the Trump supporter; er Offender and info about whether or not he was banded from flying the Airline. Good to hear this 16 year old Child did not have to further endure the stench of deplorable ignorance on her trip.

  5. First out of the box all the deniers and whatabouters, that want to pretend that this is a fabrication. Keep thinking like this, you’re not going to make it disappear. Reality SUCKS when it’s your people.

  6. I am sure that it was all a mis-understanding on everyone’s part. More likely the person had a middle seat and he just wanted to see if there was a window or aisle seat was available and apparently there was so they moved him.

    I am sure that if we can find that gentleman and ask him whether he was a racist, he would be shocked that the girl thought that. Of course, he is not a racist! I never heard of anyone who ever said that they were a racist. Just does not exist in the USA.

  7. I don’t understand the concern for the person being accused of being racist. They’re completely anonymous so how can they be publicly labelled?

    Also depressing that the first three replies call into question the trustworthiness of the account. Instead of saying “this never happens”, why not ask your friends of color if it’s ever happened to them?

    For what it’s worth, United sent her a “nice apology” (her words), so clearly they believe it happened.

  8. It is certainly POSSIBLE that this unidentified man told the flight attendant “I don’t want to sit next to a black woman.” Anything is possible. But I think most of us living in the real world know that it’s UNLIKELY the man said that. It’s even unlikely that the woman’s race was the actual reason for asking for a different seat. We all have no freakin’ idea. All I do know is that if somebody on an aircraft wants a different seat, and it’s empty and available, it’s a win-win for everybody to move that passenger. On the fact as we know them, there is ZERO reason to give this social media post any additional attention.

  9. Interesting how they are quick to move a racist (which i suppose is best for the safety of the other passenger) but won’t move COS who take up more than their allotted space and spill over onto other seat.

  10. If this man said that, I believe this man should have been escorted off the plane. We have to grow as a nation and put this hatred behind us and move on. It may have given the man a new belief had he actually sat down and took the opportunity.

  11. Can you IMAGINE what the OUTRAGE would be if the girl was forced out of HER seat bc to accommodate a racist man? United didn’t upgrade the guy to a better seat. No where does this say that he was, but everyone is criticizing the airline for not ungrading the girl. She wasn’t inconvenienced in any way and I think this was handled properly. To the idiot who said that the airline “apologized so they must’ve known it happened” Are you serious? They responded to her tweet after the fact. If it did happen, that’s on the ignorant f*ck that thinks it’s ok to say racist things. The airline isn’t responsible for the deplorables. They said they were sorry for her travel experience only because it sucks that people are racist jerks and to sympathize with someone who had to deal with that. Welcome to Trump’s America. Are we great yet? This is one of the reasons why minors shouldn’t be flying alone. Slow news day Gary?

  12. My basic economy seat always auto-assigned me with other minorities, which is fine, I just wonder if Delta’s system just has an algorithm of putting strange last names together.

    Back to the story, I am weary of reading news from twitter which is basically how society runs nowadays. From our twidler-in-chief’s non-stop lies daily, to lack of serious actions against abuse by FB and TWTR, I will just say this:

    I will reserve my outrage until the event is investigated.

  13. Obviously might have happened, but I would like more investigation also.

    Might be true, might not. Everybody calm down for once.

    There have been so many fake racist hoaxes lately, there are entire websites devoted to documenting them.

  14. I just dont believe this …NOBODY would have the balls to say …” I dont want yo sit next to a black woman”

  15. I Jussie Smellete totally believe that this happened with no further evidence after all what would it profit someone to lie about a racist incident.

    – Jussie Smellet.

  16. I suspect there’s a lot more to this story. Particularly since the very limited information that we have comes from one side only. Given this, it’s not a stretch to say that we don’t have any idea of what really took place.

  17. SERIOUSLY, United is a mess. I would have removed this man from the plane and refunded his ticket and blacklist him (no pun intended) or are they now the official airlines of the KKK.

    Here’s they new slogan: “Fly the mostly unfriendly skies. . .unless your white”. Just sickening!

  18. I was going to keep out of this, but I just wanted to commend @Chris. I too am tired of unverified tweets taken as gospel and forming the basis of widespread reporting. It happens all the time now, and is really debasing our discourse, and our ability to distinguish fact from fiction. It could have happened, but I don’t know. If it did happen, the guy should be banned from the airline.

  19. Clearly the FA worked to diffuse a potentially hazardous situation, so I’m confused why the bad comments toward UA about this! If a seat swap was enough to ease any tensions then why not?

    And I do not condone racist or other behaviors, they’re awful. But good job to UA for diffusing this bad situation.

  20. Gary Leff, you should be ashamed ( again ) of yourself for posting this trashy article. Do you think there might be another side to this story? You’re just trying to trash United again and get attention for yourself.

  21. Unfortunately, I can absolutely believe that this happened as the girl has described. Still as many have mentioned in the comments we do not have all 3 sides of this story so there could indeed be more to this.

    I taught teenagers for many years and I cannot even begin to count the number of times I had a teenage girl in my classroom crying over something that happened. I’d calm them down and then try to determine what happened and in a very large percentage of those cases we’d discover that the situation was a total mis-understanding. Teenagers can be very self-conscious and they are often prone to thinking the worst in some situations. As stated earlier, I absolutely believe that this may have occurred just as this 16 year old described. However, I could also see a situation where this man asked to be moved for an entirely different reason and said nothing about race but yet that was the first conclusion that this young woman could come up with for his request.

    Keep in mind that some men may be cautious about sitting next to an unaccompanied minor on a plane. Sadly, there have been false accounts of sexual assaults (and many real ones) on planes and as a result I have read several accounts of men being nervous to sit next to unaccompanied teenage girls for these reasons. It is extremely sad but it is the world that we are living in. Some airlines have even been known to move adult men that are seated next to an unaccompanied minor.

    One conclusion that I can draw, is that it does not seem like United did anything wrong here. They are pretty much in a lose-lose situation when things like this happen. It sounds like the flight attendants did the best that they could. If this occurred exactly as described then I can understand why many of us would feel that this man should not have been allowed to fly. But United must do their best to prevent the situation from escalating and simply re-seating him was likely their best option. Removing him from the plane would likely have caused a scene and potentially significant delays. I simply don’t understand why some people are criticizing United for this situation. This could have happened on any airline.

  22. How can so many people believe that racism doesn’t exist! I work in healthcare and we still have patients who ask not to have a black health care worker come in their room. United did right by not making this girl sit next to that man for the flight.

  23. I had to sit next to an individual on an overseas flight who reeked of sweat & body odor. People were gagging around this man so we requested any other seat but none were available. Stewardess ask why we wanted to move so I ask her to come closer and she started gagging. Priceless. If a seat is open & available, just ask to change with comments.

  24. Recently I didn’t want to sit next to a passenger but didn’t say anything. The passenger’s trait that was objectionable was that she was obese. However, she was black. I cannot say if this passenger in the blog was obese.

  25. I’m disappointed, but not shocked, by the responses to this article. White people don’t want to acknowledge that racism exists. Read the girls account. She said at first she had no clue or even cared that he wanted another seat, but she heard him say he didn’t want to sit next to her because she is black.
    Recently in a Chicago suburb, a group of Black customers were seated near a White couple that was known by Buffalo Wild Wings’ staff to be racists, as the couple were regulars. The staff then tried to reseat the large group, which chose to leave instead.. That couple admitted their racist feelings, though they never made a scene nor said a word during the incident.
    It is people like a lot of you respondents that give racists their cover. I understand that every conflict between people of different races isn’t a racial issue. I would even say that most aren’t. Black people know when they are being treated differently because of our race even when Whites try to blame it on something else. Women know when they are being discriminated against because of their gender, even if men won’t admit to it.
    Posting this article and others like it needs to happen until people realize what is happening. Pretending it doesn’t happen or making the victim delusional, or making excuses for the racist doesn’t make the problem go away. This incident was probably noteworthy to the girl because it may have been her first experience with racism.
    The truth is many White people won’t speak out on covert racism because they passively benefit from it. Some even harbor the same feelings but can’t say it legally or fear being shamed for their feelings. Amerca is not that far removed from its racist history hundreds of years in the making. It wasn’t eradicated in 50 years and will take a longer time to get rid of it.

  26. Seems like this evolved as the most dignified solution with the least disturbance for the other passengers . The young ladies remarks express respect (dubiously warranted).Actually I would be happier if they had done a Dr. Dao on the scumbag, but the modern world is not always reasonable . It is laughably pathetic to note all the commenters trying to describe the perpetrator as a victim and themselves as victims as well . To the “This is why we’re not really racists.” crowd, you’re not fooling anybody unless you’re fooling yourselves.

  27. This story is questionable at best. A simple search about this girl shows her constantly getting into the media, so I find it very odd indeed without third party verification. Really a white man just suddenly decided to say I don’t want to sit next to this girl because she is black? Does that make much sense in this age? Or maybe someone who does tv spots and has been in the media eye for awhile just wanted a bit more media attention. Either way I find it absurd that you are just assuming she is telling the truth and posting these unverified stories.

  28. I think you might consider holding off on publishing these stories when the basis of it seems to be the person who is making the accusation’s tweet, and that alone. People lie, constantly, for various reasons, about all sorts of things.

    Even the Will.I.Am story Qantas seems to be doubling down on, calling into question if that even happened. If the person didn’t commit a clearly racist act (call someone a name), and it doesn’t have unrelated witnesses or video evidence, then the accuser is merely speculating as to their motives and assigning malice

  29. United responds to a British reporter:

    “A spokesperson told Sun Online Travel: ‘United takes claims of discrimination very seriously.

    ‘We immediately had an online chat with our customer when we heard about this issue and will reach out again to speak with her directly for additional information.

    ‘We will also be speaking with our crew to better understand what happened.’ “

  30. Sorry, innocent until proven guilty. There is so little verifiable information here it’s difficult for me to take it seriously. I mean, really? We’re going to believe a teenage girl about something like this without any evidence? Being brutally honest, when I was her age, I lied all the time. Sometimes about serious stuff. Maybe the man was blatantly racist but I don’t know anyone that would be so blunt and direct about it and have never seen or heard of anything like it in my life. Not saying it doesn”t happen, just that incidents like this have got to be pretty rare and statistically speaking what probably happened was a misunderstanding where the girl misheard what he said.

  31. Gary gets ashamed all the time. Usually while he’s driving to the bank to deposit the clickbait income.

    Oh, wait, he’s in Austin so he does one of those iPhone deposits, otherwise it would take 12 hours to get anywhere.

  32. The denial is starting to read like a SNL script. Americans need to wake up and face who you have handed your country over to. The rest of the world is well aware. This is the absolute last chance to save democracy from authoritarian racist rule. Buford is about to win the Civil War re-enactment.

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