On May 2, Rane Baldwin checked into American Airlines Flight 5389, leaving Kentucky for Charlotte, N.C. Baldwin, a black woman, and her friend Janet Novack, a white woman, were traveling together, and both had first-class seats because Baldwin bought and upgraded the tickets. But unfortunately for Baldwin, she was literally moved to the back of the plane.
In an interview with The Root, Baldwin said that the flight got off to a bumpy ride, even before takeoff, when the ticket agent scanned her first-class boarding pass and then handed her a ticket that showed her seat was at the back of the plane. Baldwin said that the agent didnt offer any explanation until she questioned him. She said that she was then told that she had been assigned a new seat because a plane change left fewer first-class seats. However, Novacks seat wasnt changed.
As Baldwin and Novack boarded their flight, Baldwin said, she tried to complain to the flight attendant but was completely ignored, unlike Novack. But even when Novack decided to move from first class to sit with Baldwin in the back of the plane, another flight attendant offered Novack another seat elsewhere.
When I went back to the front to ask what was happening, she said that the first-class cabin was full and that there was nothing she could do, Baldwin said. At this point, the plane was fully boarded, but there were multiple empty rows at the front of the main cabin. I ignored my seat assignment, sat at the front, and my friend left first class and came back to join me.
When the second flight attendant came through for a cabin check, he saw us (already buckled in, arm rest in between us up) and told my friend that there was plenty of extra space and that we could spread out if she wanted to. He did not say this to anyone else, Baldwin continued.
Both Baldwin and Novack were left dismayed over what was happening to them on the flight. Novack took to Twitter and fired off tweets to American Airlines:
http://www.theroot.com/how-american-airlines-forced-black-passenger-to-give-up-1795045431Baldwin said that she sent a letter of complaint to American Airlines but has not heard back from the airline yet.
Ive never felt so unimportant my entire life. This flight was the most blatantly racist thing thats ever happened to me. It was baffling and hurtful that the crew seemed completely aware of what they were doing and just didnt care. People didnt seem to trust me and made giant, incorrect assumptions about the relationship between my friend and I, Baldwin said.
Im the one who bought the tickets; she was traveling with menot the other way around, she continued. When my ticket was changed and Janets was not, I felt like I was being sent to the back of the bus. I just kept wondering if I was in some sort of time warp and asking myself, Is this what it felt like to be black 60 years ago?