Brooklyn man booted from JetBlue flight claims racial discrimination
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is demanding JetBlue make amends with a Brooklyn man who alleges he was booted from his Thanksgiving flight because he is black.
Adams appeared with Shaun Lynda at a press conference on Thursday, criticizing the airline for allegedly discriminatory behavior that left Lynda humiliated and his Thanksgiving ruined.
“I cannot imagine how angry I would have been if I’m on an airline, attempting to return to my family in the city, and I’m removed not because I committed a terrorist action, not because I was violent, not because of the way I raised my voice, but just engaging a conversation,” Adams said.
Lynda is co-founder and chair of Brooklyn-based nonprofit Financially CLEAN, which helps to educate young people in underserved communities about finance. He also hosts a podcast titled Two Black Guys with Good Credit.
Lynda said the incident began soon after he boarded a Thanksgiving flight home from a vacation in Barbados to New York.
Lynda, who is black, said that when he noticed a flight attendant move a white family sitting in his row to seats with extra legroom nearer the front of the plane, he asked why the flight attendant had reseated them.
“The flight attendant looked at me and snapped at me and said, ‘It’s none of your business,’” he said.
When a flight attendant who had witnessed the exchange asked Lynda if he would like to be upgraded as well, Lynda said yes. After he’d been reseated, the first flight attendant told him to move back to his original seat, he said.
Lynda claimed employees wouldn’t speak with him and denied his requests to talk with the captain. He said he was told he would be removed from the flight if he refused to cooperate.
After returning to his original seat, Lynda said that the first flight attendant approached him, got down on one knee, patted him on the leg, and asked him, “Are you going to behave yourself?”
“Why would you ask me that? I’m an educated man. Why would I not behave?” Lynda said he told the attendant. Soon after, security arrived to escort Lynda off of the flight.
A video recorded by Lynda just before he was escorted off the plane can be found here.
Lynda said he was given a $100 voucher when he called JetBlue the following day, but seeks further compensation and wants to see the flight attendant held accountable for the incident.
Adams suggested the airline’s alleged response to Lynda is rooted in societal perceptions of black men.
“We seem to have this image of a tall black man with locks, so we need to immediately call the police. That is wrong,” Adams said. He announced his office would personally reach out to JetBlue on Lynda’s behalf.
Lynda’s lawyer, Roger Archibald, cited discrimination laws and demanded compensation from the airline. Archibald referenced a case in 2009 where JetBlue paid over $240,000 to a passenger wearing a shirt that read, in Arabic, “We will never be silenced.” The passenger had been told to remove his shirt and was moved to the back of the plane.
“All people have a right to fly free of discrimination,” he said.
JetBlue Airways Manager of Corporate Communications Derek Dombrowski claimed in an email to the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday that the family on Lynda’s flight had been moved so that a mother could sit with her children, part of a JetBlue policy to keep families seated together whenever possible. The only seats available had extra legroom, he said.
Dombrowski said Lynda wasn’t entitled to an upgrade, and was confrontational with the crew.
“After [Lynda] declined to pay for an upgraded seat assignment, he was asked to return to his originally assigned seat,” wrote Dombrowski. “The customer became angry and used inappropriate language with crewmembers, and as the situation risked further escalation in air after takeoff, the crew determined the customer would need to be rebooked on a different flight.”
Adams offered his opinion about how the company should proceed. “I believe JetBlue needs to engage in a serious dialogue with Mr. Lynda and outline steps they are taking to prevent incidents like this from happening ever again,” he said. “When will the airlines get it right?”
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