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Will.i.am Accuses Qantas Airline Flight Attendant Of Racism

“Is calling the police on a passenger for not hearing the PA due to wearing noise cancelling headphones appropriate?"
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 03: will.i.am attends the 2020 Breakthrough Prize at NASA Ames Research Center on November 03, 2019 in Mountain View, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize)
By Paula Rogo · November 17, 2019

Rapper Will.i.am has accused the Australia’s Qantas of racism after an incident he experienced while flying the airline this weekend.

According to the rapper, the incident occurred 20 minutes into a flight on Friday from Brisbane to Sydney, after he was using noise-canceling headphones and missed a flight-safety announcement. The flight attendant became frustrated with him when he didn’t put away his laptop fast enough.

“I’m currently on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney. I’m sorry to say me and my group have experienced [the worst] service due to [an] overly aggressive flight attendant…” he tweeted. “I don’t want to believe she racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour.”

Will.i.am said the flight attendant escalated the situation by calling the police, who met him after the flight landed, even though he said he complied with instructions to put his laptop away.

“I was intimidated by 5 police officers when I landed…for what? I put away my laptop when she asked…why would she feel threatened by me to call the police? What did I do wrong? I wasn’t out of hand.. I was polite & did what she asked… now you’re asking me to take abuse?” he tweeted.

He then followed with a series of tweets openly calling the flight attendant racist.

“Qantas, your racist flight attendant was beyond rude and took it to the next level by calling the police on me. Thank god the other passengers testified that she was out of control. The police finally let me go. Imagine if the police were as aggressive,” he said.

“Is calling the police on a passenger for not hearing the PA due to wearing noise cancelling headphones appropriate?”

“I did comply quickly and politely, only to be greeted by police. I think I was targeted.”

He went on to allege the flight attendant “singled every person of colour in the flight and gave them a hard time”, and that “other passengers on the flight agreed that she was out of hand”.

Another twitter user who was also on the flight corroborated his telling of the incident, calling the flight attendant’s behavior “appalling.”

Qantas has responded, refusing to acknowledge that a racist incident might have occured, instead calling Will.i.am’s claims “a misunderstanding.”