Spirit Airlines Forces Woman to Move Because Seatmate Didn’t Like Her Race

There’s an apocryphal story that’s made rounds on the internet since at least the late 1990s about a racist passenger complaining about being seated next to someone they deemed undesirable and demanding a flight attendant do something about it.

A 50-something year old white woman arrived at her seat on a crowded flight and immediately didn’t want the seat. The seat was next to a black man. Disgusted, the woman immediately summoned the flight attendant and demanded a new seat.

The woman said, “I cannot sit here next to this black man.”

The fight attendant said, “Let me see if I can find another seat.”

After checking, the flight attendant returned and stated “Ma’am, there are no more seats in economy, but I will check with the captain and see if there is something in first class.”

About 10 minutes went by and the flight attendant returned and stated “The captain has confirmed that there are no more seats in economy, but there is one in first class. It is our company policy to never move a person from economy to first class, but being that it would be some sort of scandal to force a person to sit next to an UNPLEASANT person, the captain agreed to make the switch to first class.”

Before the woman could say anything, the attendant gestured to the black man and said, “Therefore sir, if you would so kindly retrieve your personal items, we would like to move you to the comfort of first class as the captain doesn’t want you to sit next to an unpleasant person.”

This story was even turned into a public service advertisement in Portugal.

And that’s how it’s done. We’re all forced together inside a metal tube regardless of background. And when you’re seated next to someone you find unpleasant it’s not the airline’s fault nor should it be the airline that ought to compensate. Indeed, it’s the unpleasant person who ought to provide compensation, whether the behavior is racism, clipping toenails inflight or making inappropriate advances.

Still when the airline is in a position to it’s a great way to drop the mic. And it’s a lesson, apparently, that Spirit Airlines needs to learn as a woman on Spirit flight NK446 from Las Vegas to Chicago on June 25 was allowed to be bullied out of her seat.

[B]oard the Chicago flight and the open seat they gave me was next to a Russian woman, who refused to let me sit by her. Like refuses it to the point that she is arguing with the flight attendant about how she is not going to let me sit by her.

Luckily there were other (white) people on the plane who chose to switch seats with me so I wouldn’t have to sit by her which she happily allowed….So appreciative of the other passengers who just rallied around me , held my hand and really prayed with me.

This 4 hour flight is about to feel like a lifetime. I’m am so embarrassed and heartbroken😢

Flight attendants reportedly thanked this woman “multiple times for being a team player” and moving away from the passenger who didn’t want to sit next to a black woman — when they should have given that passenger a choice to either stop harassing her assigned seat mate or get off the aircraft.

According to Spirit Airlines they have a “zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind on our flights” and they “pride [themselves] on providing an inclusive and safe environment for our guests” although it seems their crew failed to do so on this occasion.

I really wish this story were different and there had been a ‘Big Front Seat’ open for the woman who was asked to move. I like to think about these situations in advance to have a sense of how I might react as a bystander. Certainly I’d like to think I’d say something to the flight attendant at least.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Comments

  1. “According to Spirit Airlines they have a ‘zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind on our flights’ and they ‘pride [themselves] on providing an inclusive and safe environment for our guests’ ”

    more copy paste BS from an airline. if it were true, then why didn’t they kick that russian b**ch off the plane?

  2. For once, I wish the “Are we going to have a problem?” speech had been broken out by the FA. Refund the woman’s money and let her find another way to Chicago.

  3. Geez, have you just found signs of actual Russian interference in an American (seat) sElection?

  4. This blog always take some people’s word for things with no evidence to back it up. Very often people cry racism when they are unhappy for whatever reason. Yet they don’t cry racism when 90% of crime between blacks and whites is black on white. That’s something they ignore.

    The woman may have been too fat, smelled, talked to loud on a cell phone or given the Russian lady nasty looks. Before I jump to conclusions I would have to speak to Russian lady first and get her side of the story.

  5. Gary,

    In your story, the African-American passenger got upgraded from Y to F.

    However, if you think about it, the “unpleasant” woman moved from having a seat-mate to having an empty seat beside her, which is a win in a crowded flight.

    Sounds like being unpleasant is a rewarding behavior no matter what. And that is wrong.

  6. Headline:

    “Spirit Airlines Forces Woman”

    Quote from woman:

    “Luckily there were other (white) people on the plane who chose to switch seats with me so I wouldn’t have to sit by her which she happily allowed….So appreciative of the other passengers who just rallied around me , held my hand and really prayed with me. ”

    Flight attendants reportedly thanked this woman “multiple times for being a team player” and moving away from the passenger who didn’t want to sit next to a black woman — when they should have given that passenger a choice to either stop harassing her assigned seat mate or get off the aircraft.

    Yes, let’s make a poor woman sit next to a racist, rather than just switch seats, genius.
    ____________________________________________

    So let’s be more accurate:

    Woman on spirit airlines switches seats on spirit airlines with another passenger due to a racist passenger.

    And you know what? This was the right move.

    Here were her options:

    1. Sit next to racist lady in a tin can in the sky
    2. Spirit airlines ejects/ Dr. Dao’s the racist lady; which would probably delay the #$%^&*() out of the flight.
    3. Just roll with it, switch seats, get the crap flight over with.

    You gotta choose your battles sometimes, and with all the social media points she’ll get with this and maybe a ticket refund from spirit + the shaming of the other passenger; she’s really coming out ahead with this choice.

  7. This horrible old hag should’ve been given the same treatment as the drunk man on the Hawaiian Airlines flight. She should’ve been removed from the flight and fined the equivalent amount of the delay that her temper tantrum caused.

  8. If it occurred as this blog is reporting than yes, this was horribly handled and the Russian woman should have been removed from the flight and banned from the airline.

    However, in this day and age of Social Media trials and false narratives I am seeing nothing that discusses the idea that there may have been another reason entirely for the Russian woman to request a different seat mate. Many are prone these days to jump on the bandwagon of vigilante assumptions. In the process there have been many innocent people shamed and worse when their pictures have been shown like this The case of Dominique Moran is a perfect example. She suffered for days death threats and harassment and her life was completely changed as a result of these false narratives.

  9. If this is true, major fail on the airlines part! The racist bitch should have been kicked plane with no-refund for being a fucking POS. The victim should have been comped for flight. Not the airlines fault, but unlike UA with Dao, would have gotten good press coverage and free advertising.

  10. So the actual facts are coming out in articles and were there when Gary posted this. Why he did not mention these other areas I have no idea.

    1. The “Russian” woman was upset because she had asked the flight attendant if the middle seat next to her was going to be empty. She was told “yes.” (A320 3-3 seating)
    2. She never implied or suggested it was because the woman was of color that she didn’t want to sit next to her. She was just being spoiled and wanted the middle seat empty next to her. Don’t we all?
    3. The Russian woman is clearly an entitled bitch but probably an equal opportunity one and was just hoping for a free middle seat next to her. And It appears other rows had plenty of seats. They did not switch the accuser with another.
    4. The “Russian” woman apologized to the woman directly for what she called a misunderstanding.

    While this was handled poorly everywhere….the “Russian” woman was entitled and spoiled, the F/A’s should have taken better charge, and the woman who felt she was being racially targeted might have considered this was actually because no one ever wants to sit in a row with the middle seat taken when there were other seats in less full rows. Spoiled? Yes. Racist? Probably not. I don’t care of it’s Bill Maher sitting in the middle seat next to me…I would not want him there if other seats were available.

    Gary, please stop being part of the problem in reporting (sorry, “blogging”) stories that do not show all sides and is incomplete with the facts. While I am all for awareness in showing systemic racism (The Portland Hotel incident is a legitimate example that can be used to teach and educate people) this crap actually ends up fueling the fire for right wing thinking in giving them a reason to say…”told you it’s all bullshit.” Just like Dominique Moran.

  11. If I was on that flight I would have ordered a Coke (not diet coke) and made sure that the entire cup spilled on that Russian Troll. Sorry Mame did not see you there.

  12. Next time you see a Russian acting like their Slavic ass is so Superior, remind them ww2, and also say “tvayo mat, suka blyat”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *