Black Eyed Peas star Will.i.am arrived in Sydney flying with Qantas Airways and did not like how he was treated. Is It Melanin Or Is It Entitlement?
Will.i.am has caused a bit of a stir on Twitter the past few days after making public accusations about a Qantas flight attendant using the hashtag #RacistFlightattendant. Will took an internal domestic flight from Brisbane to Sydney where he believes he experienced “they worse service due to an overly aggressive flight attendant”.
The background of this situation is that Will.i.am apparently did not hear the PA system which the flight crew use to advise people on board the plane about stowing items away, especially so when taking off or landing. The online fracas that Will.i.am caused centred around him not stowing away his laptop when advised to do so by cabin crew. This appears to be down to Will wearing “noise-cancelling headphones” at the time the PA announcement went out while the plane descended preparing to land at the airport.
Melanin Or Entitlement?
When the aircraft landed, Will.i.am was met by Sydney Police who must have responded to a request by the captain of the plane. Cabin crew members cannot call Police directly; they can only inform the captain of an issue or a disturbance, then he/she makes the call to the Police if it is warranted.
Will.i.am took the Police challenge very personally as is evidenced by his twitter tirades, now he could be right. Will certainly intimated he felt the flight attendant was aggressive and racist for making this an issue, although his original tweet did say “I don’t want to believe she racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour”.
The response to Will’s tweets was mixed, some in support, others saying Will took things too far by naming and shaming a woman who was only doing her job for the safety of the passengers and crew members.
Qantas Fights Back
Qantas said there had been a “misunderstanding” made worse by the fact Will was using the headphones at the time. Qantas has since gone public and defended their employee by calling on Will to retract his racism claims if he refuses then they “would help any staffer’s battle in court”.
A Qantas spokesman said:
“Absent a retraction, and if the crew member wanted to take the matter further, we’d certainly be willing to provide legal support for them to do this”.
Qantas also sent out a memo to its staff:
“The tweets claimed poor treatment from crew and discrimination on the basis of race. We replied that there appeared to be a misunderstanding on-board that was exacerbated by the fact will.i.am was wearing noise-cancelling headphones. We rejected claims of racism and have since asked will.i.am for a retraction of that claim. We fully support our crew and the great work they do, ensuring safety of all those on-board.”
The Flight Attendants Association of Australia secretary Teri O’Toole went on record saying the flight attendant is now being abused for merely doing her job. Teri said that takeoff and landing were “critical operational times” and that a flying laptop has the potential to seriously injure or kill a passenger or crew member.
She went further:
“These are safety protocols that have been put in place by Qantas. As employees, crew are bound to follow their employer’s direction. It seems that in doing this, crew are being vilified and attacked on social media.”
Will.i.am was not about to back down; he has no regrets about making his complaint public or putting the flight attendants name out in the public domain. The flight attendant has suffered online abuse where many have labelled her a “white supremacist” based on a “feeling” that Will.i.am had.
The question is, was this issue really down to peoples melanin content or was it down to a sense of self-entitlement and a desire to signal virtue?
The jury is out.
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