Did race get woman booted from first class on Charlotte flight? ‘No,’ says airline


A new accusation of unfair treatment by an airline has emerged, this time from women who claim race played a role in someone losing a first class seat this month on a regional jet headed to Charlotte.

The Root, an online magazine of African-American culture, reports it happened May 2 on an hour-long flight from Kentucky to Charlotte.

Passenger Rane Baldwin told the Web site that she and a friend boarded American Airlines Flight 5389 with an expectation that their seats had been upgraded to first class. However, Baldwin quickly learned that there was only one available seat in first class, so she was seated toward the back of the plane.

Baldwin is black and her friend, Janet Novack, is white. That prompted Novack to take to social media with accusations that race was part of the airline’s decision making process.

However, American Airlines told the Charlotte Observer Thursday that race was not a factor. Instead, it was a simple matter of a ticket agent mistakenly upgrading seats without making sure enough space was available in first class. Only one seat was available and Novack got it because her ticket had been upgraded first. Had Baldwin’s ticket been entered into the system first, she would have gotten the seat, airline officials said.

Novack reportedly left first class cabin in frustration, to join her friend Baldwin in the main cabin, The Root reported.

Neither of the two women had been charged extra for the upgrade, airline officials noted.

American Airlines officials said Thursday that they had reached out to Baldwin with an explanation for the mix up. The airline said it also discussed the matter with the agent who made the mistake “to make sure she followed policies in the future.”

Both Baldwin and Novack were left “dismayed” over what happened to them on the flight, reported The Root reported.