Family Claims They Were Kicked Off Delta Flight for Being Asian

Justin Cho and his family were preparing to board Delta flight DL937 from Los Angeles to Cancun on Friday. They tried to board the flight during priority boarding and were told to wait.

The father had his boarding pass scanned first. Since the rest of the family were several people back he waited for them before entering the jetway. And he got into an altercation with a Delta gate agent as a result.

[Gate agent] Isabel told my dad “you have to walk in, go inside” and my dad responded ” I am waiting for my family”. Isabel then told my dad very sternly, as if he were a child “you can’t wait here, go inside”. My dad again told her ” I am going to wait for my family” by this point both my dad and Isabel were irritated with each other, then to my surprise Isabel snatched my dads passport and ticket out of his hand and shouted “that’s it, you’re not getting on go back in line”. Imagine looking at your father and seeing him being treated like a child in front of a huge group of people. He literally did nothing wrong and just wanted to board the plane together with his family for our vacation.

As adult son Justin Cho explains it the whole family then got into an altercation with the agents. He says he “started getting frustrated” and asked the agent “who do you think you are?” His mother didn’t like the look on the agent’s face in response, and ordered “don’t you look like that at my son.”

The Delta agents at the gate then decided the family wouldn’t be flying. Airport police were called. Snippets of the family’s interaction were shared by video:

The family notes that Delta had been soliciting volunteers during the check-in process in case the flight wound up oversold. So kicking them off could have saved the airline money (although there’s no indication that the flight was actually oversold at the gate). And they’re Asian indeed the only Asians in the boarding line at the time of the altercation (although not the only Asians on the flight). So as Mr. Cho says “I feel discriminated against.”

I generally believe that airline customer service agents can do a much better job at customer service, understanding a customer’s needs and providing empathy. I don’t blame individual agents most of the time. Airlines don’t give them the resources they need to do that job. And the culture of security that’s developed since 9/11 means that airlines are quick to call the police to handle customer service issues.

Airline personnel have an issue with passengers videotaping but it’s often the only way to document legitimate customer service problems. Here a Delta agent goes over to the police to try to get the family to stop videotaping their interactions. There Delta does cross a line in my view.

While Delta can be petty and self-serving to the point of dishonest I’m not prepared to judge this incident primarily about race. While there may have been a cultural misunderstanding, it seems notable that other Asians successfully took the flight. Am I mistaken or out of line?

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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Comments

  1. If I am reading this correctly, the family of four were all adults. No reason in the world that the dad couldn’t move on as requested the first time.

  2. It is interesting to see how many have to resort to profanity and name calling to get their point across. What is even more interesting is that they have no point. It would seem from the judgmental posts that many of you were at the gate…….oh wait, you weren’t? I know nothing more annoying than when people jump to conclusions based on nothing but gossip or speculation.
    It is a fundamental rule that people will only tell the side of a story that makes them look good.

  3. To the morons saying this was a power trip or racism on the agents part…..this IS a safety issue. At no time can you simply stop and block the jetway. If there is any sort of emergency, the jetway is to remain clear for responders to get through. You are NOT permitted to stand and wait for anyone. You can wait for your family in the cabin of the plane or back in line with them. It’s one or the other. Read the terms and conditions on the back of your tickets next time. Morons.

  4. @Dyslexic Tax Guy –> Seriously, moron, you should try taking your extra chromosome to Wal-Mart for a refund to your EBT card.

    Not sure if it’s even possible to dumb this down for you to understand, but you did notice that the video recording Gary posted included audio, no? In fact, it would have made no sense for Cho to even record the video if it didn’t also include audio.

    Of course in your puerile little brain the distinction is too difficult to fathom, but other than in your pea-brain, there is no “absolute right to record anything and everything you please,” especially if the recording captures audio. There are about a dozen states that restrict any recording containing audio without the consent of all parties. And you know what’s really funny, moron? The federal courts have decided that these restrictions are allowable, [Warning: two-syllable word coming so read slower than you normally do anyhow] except when dealing with law enforcement.

    But don’t allow common sense or what I tell you to convince you. Grab your Literacy Volunteer and see what the ACLU, Digital Media Law Project, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, or even Wiki have to say. When it comes to a Wiki, there are some really cool links to various sources of information on the topic. While you may not yet have mastered controlling your bowel movements, perhaps that Literacy Volunteer can also help you hold your hand steady so you can click on them.

    ACLU: https://www.aclupa.org/issues/policepractices/your-right-record-and-observe-police/taking-photos-video-and-audio/

    Wiki: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_recording_by_civilians

    Digital Media Law Project: http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/state-law-recording

    Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: http://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/digital-journalists-legal-guide/legal-limits-recording-conduct-and-conver

    “Tax Guy”. What a joke. Whose taxes did you do, Bernie’s?

  5. This is a security issue. Once your scanned as being on the plane you need to get on the plane. The passenger was selfish and self center to think he didn’t need to follow the rules.

  6. Cant help but notice the much softer tone of this headline of a similar-to-worse situation than the 2 year old on the United flight. Your hatred for United and clear bias for delta is well documented and known, but at least attempt objectivity once in a while.

  7. Now I see a bunch of people, maybe from airlines, pretending to be fair but actually defending their comrades. You should work harder.

    To my ex-airline-employee eyes, Delta GA showed her clear intention to insult and do most damage to the elderly father, out of nothing big.

  8. @Dyslexic Tax Guy –> Seriously, moron, you should try taking your extra chromosome to Wal-Mart for a refund to your EBT card.

    Not sure if it’s even possible to dumb this down for you to understand, but you did notice that the video recording Gary posted included audio, no? In fact, it would have made no sense for Cho to even record the video if it didn’t also include audio.

    Of course in your puerile little brain the distinction is too difficult to fathom, but other than in your pea-brain, there is no “absolute right to record anything and everything you please,” especially if the recording captures audio. There are about a dozen states that restrict any recording containing audio without the consent of all parties. And you know what’s really funny, moron? The federal courts have decided that these restrictions are allowable, [Warning: two-syllable word coming so read slower than you normally do anyhow] except when dealing with law enforcement.

    But don’t allow common sense or what I tell you to convince you. Grab your Literacy Volunteer and see what the ACLU, Digital Media Law Project, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, or even Wiki have to say. When it comes to a Wiki, there are some really cool links to various sources of information on the topic. While you may not yet have mastered controlling your bowel movements, perhaps that Literacy Volunteer can also help you hold your hand steady so you can click on them.

    ACLU: https://www.aclupa.org/issues/policepractices/your-right-record-and-observe-police/taking-photos-video-and-audio/

    Wiki: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_recording_by_civilians

    Digital Media Law Project: http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/state-law-recording

    Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: http://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/digital-journalists-legal-guide/legal-limits-recording-conduct-and-conver

    “Tax Guy”. What a joke. Whose taxes did you do, Bernie’s?

  9. Why didn’t he just wait for the rest of his family IN LINE if he wanted to board with them. What if all passengers scanned their boarding passes then decided to wait there? Why did his man feel so privileged to have to go ahead of his family then block the gate area with his arrogance?

  10. Possible he was just following boarding groups… which would be good. Except that it’s boarding groups, not scanning in and waiting groups.

    Probably a a combination of the boarding group procedure and casual flyers adding up to some specific confusion.

  11. It’s FAA issues, once your boarding pass got scanned, you need to go in, it’s the gate agent’s job to make sure everyone had be scanned is in the aircraft. So if you want to board with your family, please do not jump ahead of your family to get scan first. And yes once you are scan you need to go in and should not stay in the area, it’s not delta’s agent, it’s what the airport and the law told them to do. I understand you want to have a nice vacation, then please follow the rule. If you don’t follow the rule how can people look up on you? And please understand each and everyone has a job to do. And some job might have some rules to follow. Don’t always say the “D” word when things go wrong. Look into what happen in that situation first. Airport in this country is a place not allow any type of event, they have obligation to stop it before it become physical. Like the lady on AA flight, she did not follow the rules but everyone feel sorry for her coz she is a woman?! I feel sorry for the flight crews. It’s hard to handle anyone not follow rules but thing they have right for doing anything they want!!!

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