Detroit woman says Russian passenger refused to let her sit next to her in her seat on Spirit Airlines flight
Tiarra Dowdell detailed the incident in a series of now-viral Facebook posts and said she would file an official complaint against the airline
A black woman has claimed that a racist passenger on her flight refused to let her sit beside her, before then allowing a "young white college student" to occupy her seat. Tiarra Dowdell, a Detroit native, detailed her "embarrassing" and "heartbreaking" experience in a series of Facebook posts that have since been shared thousands of times and gone viral.
Dowdell said the incident took place as she boarded Spirit Airlines Flight NK 446 at 9.34 am on June 25 to fly from Vegas to Chicago and made her way to her seat, only to find an unruly "Russian" woman blocking her way.
"I board the Chicago flight and the open seat they gave me was next to a Russian woman, who refused to let me sit by her," Dowdell wrote. "Like refuses it to the point that she is arguing with the flight attendant about how she is not going to let me sit by her."
"Luckily there were other (white) people on the plane who chose to switch seats with me so I wouldn't have to sit by her which she happily allowed," she continued. "I have never experienced this before. I’m so upset that I couldn’t lay hands on this lady. This 4-hour flight is about to feel like a lifetime. I’m am so embarrassed and heartbroken."
Dowdell said that after getting down from the flight, she recorded the passenger during her "bogus attempt at an apology" where she claimed she thought the plane was already boarded and no one told her she would have to sit next to anyone.
"Immediately after we landed she rushed off requesting a supervisor to complain to because the passengers were booing her and calling her a racist," she said. "She said her not letting me sit down had nothing to do with me being black but simply because she thought the seat was going to be empty. Mind you she allowed the young white college student to sit next to her with no issue."
Dowdell said she plans to file an official complaint against the airline because the flight attendants did not take any action after the passenger refused to let her sit in her seat and that she "shouldn't have needed to switch seats to accommodate her choice of what race she wanted next to her and her husband."
"The attendants thanked me multiple times for being a team player... I said why do I have to be a team player to someone who is obviously putting her racist cards on the table," she wrote. "Them allowing her to block the seat should have been enough for them to escort her off the plane. But obviously her being comfortable was more important, maybe I was asking for too much. Thanks, #spiritairlines, the worst experience ever!"
In a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle, Spirit Airlines said it had "zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind on our flights" and that they pride themselves in "providing an inclusive and safe environment for our guests."
"[Spirit Airlines has] launched an investigation into this incident and we have reached out directly to the guest to address her concerns," said Derek Dombrowski, the airline's media relation manager.