Culture

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

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."

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.

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