LAX (CBSLA.com) — A budget airline said Tuesday it is investigating claims of discrimination after eight black passengers were kicked off a flight at Los Angeles International Airport.
Spirit Airlines released a statement: “We are expeditiously investigating this incident. Spirit does not tolerate any form of discrimination. Our primary concern is always the safety of our customers and team members.”
The dispute began shortly after 7 p.m. Monday when a black couple brought attention to a flight attendant about a double-booked seat, according to Officer Rob Pedregon of Los Angeles Airport Police.
The flight crew moved the couple to another row. But the male passenger was still upset. “The man was not happy,” Pedregon said. “He got irate and started to raise his voice.” That was when police were called, and they escorted the man and his girlfriend off Flight 868 to Dallas.
Tyler Grasso captured the drama on his mobile phone. “As I started to pay attention, I noticed they were trying to kick this couple off the front of the plane,” he said.
The man, in the white T-shirt as shown on Grasso’s video, and his girlfriend were eventually rebooked on another flight, Pedregon said.
When other passengers came to the couple’s defense and raised their concerns with a flight attendant, the captain asked six of them, all black, to leave the aircraft, too. They were given hotel vouchers and booked on a flight to Dallas the next day, Pedregon said. The second group of passengers apparently didn’t know the couple, he said.
Grasso said “A few of them just asked to speak to a supervisor, which proceeded to them getting kicked off the plane. Just didn’t make sense.”
CBS2/KCAL9’s Jeff Nguyen spoke to Rufus Broomfield, who was one of the people in the second group. “Totally disrespectful. I don’t feel as though I gave them any reason to treat me the way that I was treated,” Broomfield said he was deplaned even though he had nothing to do with the dispute. He said he had to pay another airline for a flight to Dallas on Tuesday morning.
“They probably didn’t want to take a chance on this thing escalating,” said retired pilot Capt. Ross Aimer and CEO of Aero Consulting Experts. He said flight crews are trained to deal with heated situations, but he has seen a lack of civility on flights because airlines are simply packing too many people in their cabins.
Spirit had the lowest on-time arrival rate 63.7 percent, followed by JetBlue with 74 percent and Frontier Airlines with 77.1 percent, according to United States Department of Transportation. Spirit ranked highest in terms of customer complaints. Frontier and American are far behind.