Black California woman forced to move for white Delta passengers says: 'made me feel powerless'

ByJulian Glover KGO logo
Thursday, February 24, 2022
Black woman forced to move on Delta plane claims discrimination
The woman said she was asked to move to the back of the plane mid-flight to make room for two passengers. Delta is now investigating.

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Camille Henderson said she was asked to move to the back of the plane mid-flight to make room for two passengers who claimed to have first class tickets, but couldn't produce them to flight attendants.

Henderson traveled to Atlanta with her boyfriend to visit her family in late January.

Her mother had only met her boyfriend in passing, so this was the big meet and greet.

Atlanta is a major Delta hub. Henderson said she flew exclusively with the airline, but that all changed with this most recent trip.

"I just want them to acknowledge that they made me feel powerless and they can't do that to customers moving forward," she said in an interview with ABC7 News.

On Henderson's return flight on February 3, she said she experienced what amounted to a game of mid-flight musical chairs.

She was ticketed a window seat in row 15, but by the end of the flight she would be sitting in row 34.

Henderson said the two women seated in the row next to her in the aisle and middle seats, who appeared to be flying together, complained to flight attendants about their seat assignment.

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"They felt like they were ticketed first class seats, but they couldn't provide the tickets," said Henderson.

She said the complaints went on for more than an hour into the flight, at which point Henderson started recording part of the exchange.

Henderson supplied an audio recording to our sister station KGO-TV in San Francisco of what she says is a conversation between a flight attendant and the two women seated next to her.

One person can be heard saying, "Unfortunately, my first class seats are occupied."

Another responds, "They are what?"

"They're occupied," the first person said.

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Henderson said eventually the Delta flight attendants came back with a solution to get the women more space, but Henderson would have to be the one to move.

In the audio recording Henderson shared with ABC7 News, you can hear someone asking her, "Are you flying by yourself?"

Henderson can be heard responding that she is, followed by the person saying, "There's a seat back there in aisle 34. It's an aisle seat."

The recording then stops.

Henderson said at no point did the flight attendants suggest the women sitting next to her, who were displeased with their seat assignments, should move.

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She said she complied with the flight attendants' instructions and was moved to an aisle seat in row 34, the last row where passengers were seated.

"I don't want to make it a race thing, but instead of asking the two white women that were seated next to me (to move), in an attempt to accommodate them, they basically made me have to move. I just don't know why I had to move because that was the seat that I paid for, that was my assigned seat," Henderson said.

She said she was embarrassed by the experience and did not refuse the flight attendants orders out of fear of being labeled disruptive and potentially being reprimanded.

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"As I'm walking back there it's just humiliating. It's like having the entire flight look at you and asking what's going on," she said.

After getting back to the Bay Area, Henderson spent the next several days trying to contact Delta Airlines to file a complaint about her experience.

When she finally got a customer service representative on the phone, she said she was unsatisfied with the interaction.

Henderson supplied an audio recording to ABC7 News of what she says is a conversation between her and a Delta Airlines customer support agent.

"How were you humiliated for them to ask you to go to another seat?" the person can be heard asking in the recording.

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The person Henderson said was a Delta Airlines customer service representative, said since she was moved from a main economy seat to another main economy seat there was no inconvenience.

"You're basically saying there's nothing that you can do?" Henderson responded.

"No, not under these circumstances that I'm showing ma'am," the person responded.

Not satisfied with that response, Henderson reached out to ABC7 News.

After KGO-TV stepped in, a Delta Airlines spokesperson provided the following statement:

"We are looking into this situation to better understand what happened. Delta has no tolerance for discrimination in any form and these allegations run counter to our deeply-held values of respecting and honoring the diversity of our customers."

Henderson feels those words are hollow after her experience.

"Me, as a Black woman, I was displaced to make two white women comfortable. That doesn't make any sense to me," she said.

When asked if she would fly Delta again Henderson responded, "Never. Never again."