Airline Asks Black Men to Take Off Their Hoodies in First Class While White Men Wore Same Outfits

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  • Was it blatant racism or a simple misunderstanding that prevented two African American men from traveling in the first class cabin of U.S. Airways while wearing hoodies and jeans?

    You decide.

    Two black passengers, Miles and MacCraig Warren, are suing U.S. Airways for racial discrimination after an airline gate agent refused to allow them to travel in first class wearing hoodies and jeans.

    The Warrens, who are brothers, were flying home from Denver to Los Angeles after a relative’s funeral last year when they were told that their attire was too casual, asked to remove their baseball caps, and change into button-down shirts, slacks and nicer shoes.

    But here’s the catch: When the Warrens boarded the plane, they saw two passengers in first class – a white passenger, Michael Heffernan, and a Filipino passenger, Edward DeLeon, — wearing hoodies and jeans, the same clothing the Warrens were told not they couldn’t wear.

    “They were told that this was the policy if you wanted to ride in first class,” lawyer Rodney Diggs told the New York Daily News. “They were very upset when they saw the other two gentlemen sitting right across from them. This is definitely racial discrimination and a violation of their civil rights.”

    The Warrens filed a lawsuit in federal court last week, seeking punitive damages for discrimination and emotional distress. They called the experience “humiliating.”

    “We welcome customers of all ethnicities and backgrounds and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We take these allegations seriously,” U.S. Airways said in a statement. “Employees are aware of the travel policy and required to understand the expectations when utilizing their pass privileges.”

    U.S. Airways will likely make the case that the Warrens were traveling on a discounted “buddy pass” and subject to restricted dress codes for “buddy pass” travelers. Heffernan and DeLeon were full-fare paying passengers and, therefore, were not restricted to a dress code.

    So why are there separate first-class travel policies for “buddy pass” passengers and full-fare paying passengers? Why can’t “buddy pass” passengers travel in casual attire? Is this a case of racial discriminaton? Or is it just a flawed U.S. Airways travel policy?

    Diggs, meanwhile, said his clients were never informed that different policies applied to reduced fare and regular fare passengers.

    “If this is a policy, it has to be practiced at all times and not just selectively implemented when they want it to be implemented,” said Diggs.

    Still, the person who sold the Warrens the “buddy passes” — presumably a U.S. Airways employee — should have explained the dress code rules to the Warrens before they boarded the plane.

    Several airline employees posted comments on ConsumerAffairs.com, a mix of arguments.

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    31 thoughts on “Airline Asks Black Men to Take Off Their Hoodies in First Class While White Men Wore Same Outfits

      • Number 1. There were NO tickets! An airline employee can give friends a free ride on their airline. The friend may pay the taxes or service fee. These free rides can not be sold! You can be fired for that. The employee should have given all information to these friends. Imagine if a friend came to your place of work and you told him to dress up for the visit. The agent should have refused transporting them instead of helping change attire and this would have been over. No good deed goes unpunished. (Airline employee 25 yrs)

    1. Number one, they did not have tickets! They had “passes”. It is forbidden to sell the passes, however, a person can pay the tax or service fee. I have been in the airline industry for 25 years. The person who kindly gave these guys the passes will probably lose his future passes or even his job! It is the employees responsibility to ensure whomever uses the passes are fully aware of the policies. They should sue their unemployed ex-friend. (Sarcasm)

    2. I think this is a classist thing and not a racist thing. There is also the breakdown in the lines of communication that factored into this becoming an incident.

      The buddy pass indicates that if you pay full price for a first class seat, you can wear whatever you want. If you get a first class seat by way of the pass, a dress code is in place so you don’t show up in your poverty-stricken rags and ruin the flight for everyone.

      The person handing out the passes should have explained the dress code to those guys. They person at the ticket counter should have explained that the buddy pass dress code was why she was asking them to adjust their attire. Then they wouldn’t have been surprised to see first class passengers kicking it all casual. They would have assumed that they were full price high class people who could afford the ticket and were subsequently wearing whatever.

      The fact that there were no explanations or instructions on the dress code given would leave these guys open to justly interpreting the situation as being racially charged. There are some questions as to if the ticket counter person had the information that they were buddy pass ticket holders or not. If she did have that information, why didn’t she give that as the reasons behind having them change their clothing? Again, that leaves room for these guys to make their assumptions.

      So perhaps there were some racial motivators present in this situation. I can’t tell from the information given in this article. I think airlines should do away with the archaic dress code policy for buddy passes. It reeks of classist mores from eras gone by, and leaves themselves open to misinterpretations should the communication break down between passenger and airline like it seems to have done in this case.

      Racism? Maybe. I’ve known many people of color who fly first class frequently getting hassled to show their ID, their tickets etc to prove that they “belong” there. You might think these guys wrong for thinking that what happened to them was racist in nature, but I’m not surprised that they did, nor do I blame them. I however, once given the information on that stupid dress code policy, would have said ok whatevs and kept it moving. But that’s just me.

    3. I’m still trying to figure out why this story went from a story about airline passengers and their attire to Trayvon Martin. I thought I had clicked on another story in error while reading.

    4. Unfortunately this will not fly in court. I have worked in the airline industry over thirty years. I fly on passes all of the time. There are dress codes for flying with passes. Unfortunately they are not always enforced, like a lot of the rules in our country. But when they are enforced we can only get mad but we have to abide by them. It is what it is. When Southwest airlines came aboard, they started the casual fly attire. When you buy a ticket you can wear what you please. Not on passes.

    5. Every time a black person calls white American on a racist act it’s called whining, but when white American does it it’s called fighting for their rights. I do not doubt for a minute that there probably is a rule regarding these so called passes, the problem is the rule is not always applied, it is brought up as a way to control people the airline wants to control and in this case it was 2 young African American men.What really pisses me off is that white American does not realize that everyday African Americans face diversity and complications masked as rules and regulations by racist corporations and other people in authority. It is utterly ridiculous and unnecessary. When the airline called the young men out about a dress code they really thought they would just give up and go away like most of us do all time just to avoid problems, but they got shocked because the men consented and change their attire. I am so glad that they did because they would not have been aware of the other passengers that were being allowed to what they could not. I am 46 years old my grandmother is 92 she always said there are 2 sets of rules and 2 sets of laws one for whites and another for African Americans and after all these years that still holds true…..smh it is really sad.

      • You said, “I do not doubt for a minute that there probably is a rule regarding these so called passes, the problem is the rule is not always applied, it is brought up as a way to control people the airline wants to control and in this case it was 2 young African American men.”…

        Did you just make this up? how do you know this is the case? You EVEN admitted there may have been a rule and now you are claiming that it is misused for racial intent. Where did you come up with this one?

        • Kandi, girl give it up. You are really embarrassing yourself. Racism does exist, no doubt. I as a minority have experienced it my life. But you can’t just play the race card every time something unfair happens. Sh*t happens and does not only occur cause of racism. The boarding indicates when a “buddy pass” is being used.

    6. This is complete stupidity. All airlines have a policy for non-revenue passengers that, in order to enjoy the BENEFIT of a free ticket, especially for FIRST CLASS, you must dress in proper attire. It is not appropriate for an airline to prevent revenue passengers who pay lots of money for their tickets to deny them the right to sit in first class because of their attire, but it is ABSOLUTELY the right of the airline to do this for non-revenue passengers. It has NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE. Wait, let me say this again so you can hear….IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE.

      The fact that these bozos would interpret this as a racial incident just shows what is wrong with this world today. Rather than being grateful for a free-bee and intelligent enough to know the difference between revenue and non-revenue passengers in terms of policy, these idiots just continue to contribute to the propogation of racism themselves, just by using this harmless incident as a way to get more out of others than they truly deserve.

      • Do flight attendants get a list of paying and non-paying first class passengers? If not, how did she know that they were non-paying? What was her stated reason for requiring that they change clothes? If she did not immediately cite the buddy-pass rule then there is evidence to suggest her behavior wasn’t due to first class policy.

      • The only thing stupid is you rob; you have no idea what is like being demeaned over something so stupid. If a dress code for people with passes is so important then why isn’t there a dress code for all first class riders? You say everyone knows of this rule but you are obviously wrong because there were 2 men with passes not aware of this rule that supposedly everyone knows about. People like you are the reason this country will always be racist. Most white Americans won’t admit racism and you can’t change what you are not willing to accept as a flaw.

        • Kandi, obviously you go straight to the racism card without using logic. The SAME RULES apply to everyone in this situation. USAirways did not single these guys out because of their race. They singled them out because they were on a buddy pass and they were not dressed appropriately for first class. It is that simple. I am not nor have I never have been a defender of racism. Just the exact opposite, actually.

          But what I and what you call “White America” (which is in itself racist but you cannot see that) are really getting sick of is both the double-standard today and the race card that is being OVER-PLAYED. This policy is in place on their books for ALL passengers. M P you are the one who needs to WAKE UP. In today’s day and age, when a black boy like Trayvon Martin is gunned down, people take to the streets, but when a baby is shot in the face by a black boy, you don’t see “White America” take to the streets. This is because we are victim to the double-standard. We cannot stand up for our rights as white people because we will be called “racist”, but as a black person, you can just makes an issue out of everything. It is tiresome to see so many people overreacting and taking advantage of a situation by crying Racism Racism when that is the farthest thing from the truth. It was a normal policy applied to all. Take some damn responsibility for yourself rather than suing and crying racism all of the time.

    7. As a airline retiree (not of USAir), unfortunately racism still exists in this world but this is not a case of the gate agent being racist. This is a policy of 95% of the airlines. It is up to the employee (as someone stated earlier) to inform anybody we give “buddy passes” the rules. Buddy pass riders, in most cases do not have the same rights as full paying customers i.e, if a flight is cancelled due to mechanical problem most airlines offer compensation as well as hotel accommodations (if last flight), buddy passers are not entitled to any of these amenities. Sorry guys, you won’t win this one in court.

    8. hi we all konw this is BIRD SEEDS. ITS NOT RIGHT, THEY ARE STILL THE SAME OLD BOYS CLUB. we must stop this. we teachers teach the children to get along, but CORP.AMERICA goes the opposite way WHY? now they are saying its the employee who gave the brother the tickets fault. no way.

    9. Since it’s so strictly enforced, was the proper dress code indicated on the tickets? Otherwise, how were this guys supposed to know about those requirements? As usual, somebody had to refer to the guys are “whiners.” I guess that’s to be expected in this post-racial American society. Yes, I’m being sarcastic.

    10. Wow, what a waste to use this as an “example” of racism when there are so many real examples of racism to be concerned about. The airline did nothing wrong and everyone needs to stop whining.
      Maybe these two gentlemen should sue their friend who gave them the discounted tickets. it was their friend who failed to inform them of the long standing policy.

      • It is never a waste of time when someone is being treated unfairly and they fight it. I guess you think expecting better treatement as an American is a waste of time becasue its not you being singled out and embarrased and belittled by society. although your comments are an embarrasement to American I dont see it as a waste becasue it just confirms that people don’t admit how bad racism still is. I just wish you could walk in Africans Americans shoes for one day, your weak ass would probably end up hanging yourself becasuse you can’t deal with the pressure.

        • Kandi again shows she is ignorant with these comments. You refuse to accept the fact that an airline employee was just doing his or her job. You immediately choose to believe it was racist, without even knowing the whole story. I feel sorry for you that you have to call people weak and racist because they feel this story is incorrect in its assignment of blame.

    11. my son use to work for DELTA AIRLINE and when I travel I flew first class I was told bye my son that the rule for attire in first class which was no jeans or sandels,That was in 1997,its the dress code rule for buddy pass in first class…

    12. I was just wandering how did they know they had a discounted ticket when they were seated? Do they go down they aisle checking tickets and dress codes?

      • I totally agree with you percy, they will never get a dime of my money, I don’t give my money to walmart and alot of other corporations that i believe to have questionable policies, I may only be one person but to me its about spending my dollars with integrity.

    13. I agree. It should not have matter if it was a buddy pass or regular price for a first class ticket. I bet if they were sitting in coach, the airline worker would have never said anything. People just because we have a African American President, doesn’t mean racism with stop. It just gotten worst. If US congressmen can heckle the President, what make us think, that it would be better for us. Wake Up, My People!

    14. Blatant discrimination. Okay, now we have a mayor who dictates how much we can drink; now airlines who tells us what to were. If the politicians and companies feel they have the right to dictate our live’s behavior to us, why do we pay taxes; we can’t make choices. They should be taking care of us. Why do you have to dress differently to use a buddy pass. When flying one wants to be very comfortable. I think it was an act of discrimination and unfortunately we are seeing more and more acts disguised under rules and regulations. Any black person who would still fly that airline, I won’t, should only wear hoodies.

    15. Ok. I am still trying to wrap my head around what does how much you pay to fly first class have to do with how you dress? First class is first class and depending on when you purchase your tickets everyone could be paying a different price. I mean if you are in first class and there is a dress code shouldn’t EVERYONE have to go by this code that is flying first class? It just sound stupid to me and it sound like an excuse/smoke screen. The employee fukd up. Because if I am to believe that this is a real policy then what they are saying is the more you pay the sloppier you can fly in first class? Please! Black people you better learn your worth and use it. You have spending power just like any other race. Retire US Air Ways from your places to do business. If you don’t demand respect from these bigots they damn sure aren’t gonna show you any. If anything they will do everything in there power to strip you of you pride and dignity. Wake up!!!

    16. First of all the pasengers were traveling on a buddy pass….the dress code for a buddy pass is different than a regular paying ticket. The reason the passengers were asked to change had to do with discounted ticket…which sometimes is very low price. It is also standby..so you board when a seat is available. The person that give them the buddy pass…should have informed them of the dress code.Now this employee that give them the buddy pass will probably be fired for a failure to inform your friend the policies of pass traveling. Thats why you have to be careful who you help…..

    17. US Airway is ran by some racist fool and we as Black American need to be fighting about this and not us their service, it should not matter if you are using buddy pass or paying it all yourself If one race can wear hoodies so should everone else and they keep telling our kids we are all the same. Wake Up People and let take a stand and stop these racist fools.

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