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The Bigoted Airline Passenger

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Airliner Passenger Cabin
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Viral story of an airline passenger who demands a different seat assignment after learning he or she will be sitting next to a person of another ethnicity or religion.

Description: Urban legend / Forwarded email
Circulating since: 1998
Status: Dubious (see details below)

2003 example:
Email text contributed by Frank H., Dec. 30, 2003:

Subject: Racism--interesting

The following scene took place on a BA flight between Johannesburg and London. A white woman, about 50 years old, was seated next to a black man. Obviously disturbed by this, she called the air Hostess.

"Madam, what is the matter?" the hostess asked

"You obviously do not see it then?" she responded. "You placed me next to a black man. I do not agree to sit next to someone from such a repugnant group. Give me an alternative seat."

"Be calm please", the hostess replied. Almost all the places on this flight are taken. I will go to see if another place is available."

The Hostess went away and then came back a few minutes later "Madam, just as I thought, there are no other available seats in the economy class. I spoke to the captain and he informed me that there is also no seat in the business class. All the same, we still have one place in the first class." Before the woman could say anything, the hostess continued. "It is not usual for our company to permit someone from the economy class to sit in the first class However, given the circumstances, the captain feels that it would be scandalous to make someone sit next to someone sooooo disgusting."

She turned to the black guy, and said. "Therefore, Sir, if you would like to, please take your hand luggage because a seat awaits you in the first class. " At the moment, the other passengers who were shocked by what they had just witnessed stood up and applauded.

This is a true story which is not usually told. If you are against racism, please send this message to all your friends, please do not delete it without sending it to at least one person.

2012 example:
As posted on Facebook, Jan. 28, 2012:

This happened on TAM airlines.

A 50-something year old white woman arrived at her seat and saw that the passenger next to her was a black man.

Visibly furious, she called the air hostess.

"What's the problem, ma?" the hostess asked her

"Can't you see?" the lady said - "I was given a seat next to a black man. I can't seat here next to him. You have to change my seat"

"Please, calm down, ma" - said the hostess "Unfortunately, all the seats are occupied, but I'm still going to check if we have any."

The hostess left and returned some minutes later.

"Madam, as I told you, there isn't any empty seat in this class- economy class. But I spoke to the captain and he confirmed that there isn't any empty seats in the economy class. We only have seats in the first class."

And before the woman said anything, the hostess continued

"Look, it is unusual for our company to allow a passenger from the economy class change to the first class. However, given the circumstances, the commandant thinks that it would be a scandal to make a passenger travel sat next to an unpleasant person."

And turning to the black man, the hostess said:

"Which means, Sir, if you would be so nice to pack your handbag, we have reserved you a seat in the first class..."

And all the passengers nearby, who were shocked to see the scene started applauding, some standing on their feet.


2013 example:
As posted on Facebook, June 13, 2013:

A 50-something year old Muslim man arrived at his seat on a crowded flight and immediately didn't want the seat. The seat was next to an elderly white woman reading her Bible. Disgusted, the man said, "I cannot sit here next to this infidel!" then summoned the flight attendant, demanding a new seat. The flight attendant responded, "Let me see if I can find another seat. "After checking, the flight attendant returned and stated "There are no more seats in economy, but I will check with the captain and see if there is something in first class. "The flight attendant returned, stating "The captain has confirmed that there are no more seats in economy, however there is one in first class. It is our company policy to never move a person from economy to first class, but being that it would be some sort of scandal to force a person to sit next to an UNPLEASANT person, the captain agreed to make the switch to first class." Before the irate Muslim man could say anything, the attendant gestured to the elderly woman and said, "Therefore, m'am, if you would so kindly retrieve your personal items, we would like to move you to the comfort of first class as the captain doesn't want you to sit next to an unpleasant person." Passengers in the seats nearby began to applaud while some gave a standing ovation. I say, can I get an Amen to that!

Analysis: This viral tale of a bigoted airline passenger receiving his or her comeuppance after refusing to be seated next to someone of a different race or religion is morally satisfying and plausible enough to be true, but probably isn't. No eyewitnesses or airline officials have ever come forward to confirm any of the several existing versions of story. Given that it's been circulating since 1998 and originally named British Airways as the operator of the flight in question, it's all the more unlikely that the 2012 version set aboard a TAM Airlines plane is true.

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Last updated 09/12/13

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