Qantas is standing firmly behind its flight attendant against a charge of racism by American rapper William Adams, popularly known as will.i.am.
Adams, of the Black Eyed Peas group, was on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney and alleges that he was targeted by an “overly aggressive” Qantas flight attendant on the basis of his race.
He was wearing noise-cancelling headphones and said he did not hear the flight attendant announcement to put laptop computers away prior to landing. The flight attendant then singled him out, berating him for not following crewmember instructions.
Some words may have been exchanged because five police officers met the flight upon landing in Sydney. Adams was not arrested.
Naming the flight attendant and posting a picture of her on Twitter, he added she was “beyond” rude with the hashtag #RacistFlightattendant.
I don’t want to believe she (sic) racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of color.
Qantas: We Will Support Flight Attendant
After Adam’s claims were picked up by many news outlets, Qantas issued a cautious but somewhat passive-aggresive statement blaming the “misunderstanding” on noise-cancelling headphones.
There was a misunderstanding on board, which seems to have been exacerbated by will.i.am wearing noise cancelling headphones and not being able to hear instructions from crew.
We’ll be following up with will.i.am and wish him well for the rest of the tour.
But as the story has continued to gain traction and outrage has grown over shaming the flight attendant so publicly (Adams has over 12 million followers), Qantas now is publicly backing the flight attendant:
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.
That’s an interesting turn, because a number passnegers onboard have backed Adams, including this one:
I was on the same flight and couldn’t believe the appalling behaviour of the flight attendant. My apologies on behalf of Australia.
— Kate Selway (@kate_selway) November 16, 2019
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Adams did not express vengeance, just a hope for the flight attendant to be retrained.
The interesting news here is how strongly Qantas is standing behind its flight attendant. If more passengers continue to corroborate Adam’s account, that’s bad optics for the Australian carrier, even if its issue is more the public shaming and privacy invasion than the harsh words exchanged onboard.
image: Eva Rinaldi / Flickr CC 2.0