ONTD Political

US Airways Tells Black Passengers to Change Out of Jeans and Hoodies Before Boarding First-Class

11:36 am - 04/15/2013
UPDATE: Passengers reportedly traveling on "buddy passes."

When McCraig and Miles Warren tried to claim their first-class seats on a US Airways flight, an employee told them to first change into more appropriate attire, according to a federal discrimination lawsuit filed Wednesday.

A ticket counter employee repeatedly told the Warrens, who are both black, that their jeans, hooded sweatshirts and baseball caps violated an alleged first-class dress code. As the complaint states:

Doe employee informed plaintiffs that it was US Airways policy that everyone in first class is required to wear slacks, button up shirts and no baseball caps. Doe employee demanded plaintiffs to change from jeans into slacks, a button-up shirt and told plaintiffs to remove their baseball caps.

The Warrens reportedly headed to the restroom where Miles conferred to a white passenger, Michael Heffernan, that he was worried he’d miss his flight because of his apparent dress-code violation. So, imagine Miles’ surprise when he saw Mr. Heffernan and a friend sitting in first-class, wearing almost the exact same outfits that barred the Warrens from sitting in their seats—jeans and hoodies.

Andrew Christie, a spokesperson for US Airways told AlterNet, “We’ve received the complaint and are currently reviewing it.”

This apparent double standard in US Airways’ planes is just a microcosm of widespread, systemic racism in the United States, where minorities encounter discrimination everyday in institutions, whether private or public. In the same country where the Warrens face a stricter dress code than Michael Heffernan, African Americans are jailed for drug offenses at ten times the rate of whites, even though nearly five times more white Americans use drugs.

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UPDATE - 4:00 PM: US Airways spokesperson Andrew Christie tells AlterNet, " We welcome customers of all ethnicities and backgrounds and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We take these allegations seriously." Christie added, " Initial indications are that these pass-riders were traveling on non-revenue tickets as part of our employee travel program. All employees and pass-riders are expected to comply with the policies associated with this travel privilege."

Source doubts the kind of ticket had much to do with it.

The drug statistic is very randomly dropped into this article... is it just me?
oceandezignz 15th-Apr-2013 03:45 pm (UTC)
Okay sooooo the pass-rider ticket has a dress code under employee rules? Then why did Doe employee state it was AA policy in general? All in all, I see such a thing as BS... I've used similar "free" fare first-class tickets before (United Air) and I got on the plane in "Stripper" Go-go boots, jeans and a hoodie and swanned into my glorious wide-legged paradise.

So while I would love more detail, I have to initially raise a brow. I really do.
brbsb 15th-Apr-2013 05:40 pm (UTC)
I've been upgraded for free on international flights while wearing an oversized hoodie, athletic pants and old tennis shoes...never heard a THING about dress code.
shoujokakumei 15th-Apr-2013 03:55 pm (UTC)
I'd really like to see those "policies associated with this travel privilege" in writing.

And yeah, the drug statistic seems a little wedged in there. I get where they were going with it, though.
intrikate88 15th-Apr-2013 04:04 pm (UTC)
I've traveled on buddy passes before and have been told very firmly that, with the flying-standby status of the ticket, my chances of actually getting a seat on the flight were existent or better depending on how well I was dressed, so I never wear sweats, jeans, tshirts, or hoodies to fly, just in case. I'm so white I'm practically transparent.

Which is not to say that this case is not about racial prejudice, or that AA does not have racist employees (and all my buddy pass experiences have been with Delta), and based on the double standard noted about the other passenger, it's all very fishy.

But POC are not the only people being told that there are policies like this when flying, that's all I wanted to add.
yesthatnagia 15th-Apr-2013 04:23 pm (UTC)
So, you don't want to say it's not racist. But it's ttly not racist. Am I getting this right?

ETA: There is kind of a big difference between being told "Dress better and you're more likely to be able to use the pass" and being told "Dress better or we will not allow you to use the pass."

Edited at 2013-04-15 04:23 pm (UTC)
pastelward 15th-Apr-2013 04:24 pm (UTC)
The drug statistic is very randomly dropped into this article

That's AlterNet for you.
yesthatnagia 15th-Apr-2013 04:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm seriously doubting that they were using the employee travel program. Wouldn't employees have known about the 'dress professionally' rule? For that matter, what's this 'initial indications' bullshit? Wouldn't you know if they were your employees using that program or NOT know? How the hell much digging does that require?
dixiedolphin 15th-Apr-2013 05:34 pm (UTC)
Well, employee buddy passes can be given to non employees. So, it's not unlikely that they wouldn't know about any extant policies if they were just friends of an employee.
bella_cheval 15th-Apr-2013 04:29 pm (UTC)
That's it. Fuck the world, I'm moving to Mars.
heartlockedx 15th-Apr-2013 05:09 pm (UTC)
i had no idea there's a dress code for first class.
chaya 15th-Apr-2013 05:12 pm (UTC)
That's because there really isn't.
calliope1975 15th-Apr-2013 05:13 pm (UTC)
Pilot's daughter. When I was a kid it was dresses or a pants suit. I hated dressing up when we didn't even know if we'd get on the flight. /csb

When I had my friend travel with me on a buddy pass we had to dress up. AA had relaxed their position on jeans but they had to be worn with a sport jacket or nice blouse and shoes. This was about 5 years ago so it might have changed recently.
kittenmommy 15th-Apr-2013 10:36 pm (UTC)

I'm old enough to remember when you'd dress up to fly, because... you were flying.
layweed 15th-Apr-2013 05:15 pm (UTC)
I don't know about the statistics but I will say the VAST majority of suspects in cases I work are African American males. :/
rex_dart 15th-Apr-2013 05:33 pm (UTC)
It seems as though no one else has encountered this, but it is a real thing. My fiancee went through this (she is white) when she was bumped to first class after Virgin Atlantic GAVE AWAY HER SEAT. She was forced to change into a dress behind a screen at the gate. It is something they enforce for people who are bumped up or have buddy or family passes - people who didn't actually pay for first class. My fiancee was sobbing when she got on the plane, and a nice flight attendant brought her pajamas to wear because apparently only the gate people felt like being dicks. And in her case as well, everyone else in first class was dressed like she had been before they made her change.

That's not to say that the policy isn't applied in a racist (or sexist) way, but it's not somehing the airline just made up now. This crap does unfortunately exist and has for years.
lone_concertina 15th-Apr-2013 06:04 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the flight attendants care about the dress code significantly less than the gate attendants do from my experience. I've dealt with some shit from gate attendants, especially at the Narita airport, but I've always been given a pass once on the plane.
wldrose 15th-Apr-2013 05:39 pm (UTC)
First this is deeply bugging me its not AA its US Airways different company.

Last week my husband and I flew on USA in first and no one had anything to say about our jeans and tshirt, things were clean but not fancy. But the tkts were paid for not passes and we are middle aged and a mixed race couple.

But I wouldn't be surprised that this happened

Edited at 2013-04-15 06:24 pm (UTC)
roseofjuly 16th-Apr-2013 02:32 am (UTC)
American Airlines and US Airways are merging. They got approval in late March, so they may already be the same company and that may be why people are making the reference.
pradagirl 15th-Apr-2013 05:44 pm (UTC)
I'm a flight attendant and the rules associated with buddy pass travel are pretty strict. I actually give my pass riders a booklet with all the rules and a very stern warning that their actions are a direct reflection on me and could put my job on the line. You know what's sad about this story? The person that did them a favor and gave them the passes is probably now without a job.
lone_concertina 15th-Apr-2013 06:05 pm (UTC)
We had to stop letting friends use our passes because they were acting like complete asses (getting too drunk in first class and dressing like shit, mostly, even though they'd been sternly warned) and we didn't want to risk losing them. It really is a huge reflection on the airline, whether pass riders realize it or not, so it's understandable that they'd expect higher standards from them.
mahsox_mahsox 15th-Apr-2013 06:07 pm (UTC)
I can understand why they'd have a policy like that for employee passes. It isn't a nice reason, but it is one of classism not racism. The airline wants to reduce the number of first class passengers who become aware that they are receiving the same service as one of the hired help. Maybe if they'd been white they would have been waved through without being asked to change, but it would have been the staff member on duty deciding to allow that white privilege, not the airline itself.

This sort of thing is pretty common all over the damn place. Even fast food chains sometimes insist that their staff members do not ever wear any part of their uniform while ordering food at the front counter. There are department stores that have arrangements in place so customers never see employees making purchases. Anything to preserve that distinction between those who serve and those who are served.
betray802 15th-Apr-2013 06:17 pm (UTC)
On the occasion in the past when I've flown -- which I will do no longer unless TSA undergoes a MAJOR overhaul -- I've worn a tracksuit (jacket and pants) and a T-shirt. This is what I've traveled in since my first trip on a plane at the tender age of 13, was in fact purchased for that trip. (I topped out at 4'11" that summer.) I usually top it with a ball cap, because my lion's mane mop looks best (read: tolerable) that way. If I get any whiter I'll be invisible. Anything else wearable goes in my checked baggage, I don't haul clothes in my carry-on.

Wonder what they'd do with me. (Understanding that the Colorado Rockies have a better chance of winning the World Series than I have of ever flying first class.)
tabaqui 15th-Apr-2013 09:24 pm (UTC)
What a bunch of utter shite. That employee needs to be fired and these guys deserve a *very* public apology. Fucking hell.
365reasonswhy 16th-Apr-2013 12:59 am (UTC)
What I don't understand is why someone didn't explain to them WHY they were making him change since if it was really that simple.

My uncle was a Delta pilot and to stress to us that when we used his buddy passes that we couldn't wear jeans, had to wear nice, close-toed dress shoes and something other than a plain t-shirt. I've been bumped once b/c someone else on S4 was dressed better than I was and there wasn't enough space for both of us and it sucked because my cousin who was an S2 got on the flight and I had to panic in San Diego about whether or not I could get a flight out. I ended up having to get a friend to drive me to the airport in Orange County just for the chance to get a flight. Never again will I fly buddy passes in the summer, and if I ever do again, I will dress to the fucking 9's.

It sounds like the gate attendant was not only rude, but not forthcoming about why these guys were in the situation they were in, which is shady as hell because this policy is so very easy for people to abuse and discriminate with.
pradagirl 16th-Apr-2013 02:27 am (UTC)
The agent not being forthcoming doesn't make any sense. Didn't they ask why they were being asked to change and why would the agent withhold the info? Something about this just doesn't add up.
je11ifysh 16th-Apr-2013 01:25 am (UTC)
Sounds like it may be more classist. (Assuming the white guys paid for their tickets.) Those who don't "deserve" first/business class tickets have different standards if they want to be allowed the privilege.
pradagirl 16th-Apr-2013 02:26 am (UTC)
The Asian and White guy were paying passengers. This whole thing makes no sense...why did they wait 8 months to sue? The information is readily available to anyone. Didn't they ask the agent why they needed to change? Did the agent not explain to them they are on passes and that's why the request to change was made. I don't know...this whole story makes no sense.
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