Black woman pays $600 to get seat upgraded. American Airlines gives it away to white woman

@collinskaye/TikTok Markus Mainka/Adobe Stock (Licensed)

‘They let her keep my seat’: American Airlines customer says she was bamboozled after paying $562 for upgraded seat

‘Her privilege allowed for this to happen.’


Stacy Fernandez


A woman is accusing American Airlines of making her—a Black woman—give her seat up for a white woman. An American Airlines representative told the Daily Dot that is not the case.

An American Airlines representative told the Daily Dot the following in a statement: “We want all of our customers to have a positive experience during their travels with us. This customer flew in the cabin for which she purchased an upgrade and in the same seat assigned at the time of the upgrade’s purchase. A member of our team has been in contact with the customer to learn more about her experience, including the upgrade purchase process.”

The customer, Kaneisha Collins (@collinskaye), says she was in a back-and-forth with the airline for several days. In her latest update on the matter, Collins says American Airlines has since apologized and issued her a full refund.

In her first video on the incident, which now has more than 1 million views, Collins (@collinskaye), who has over 80,000 followers, says she was flying from Philadelphia to Venice. She says she paid $562 for an upgraded seat on the 8-hour flight.

Collins included two screenshots in her video. In one, Collins shows that she selected seat 6A. The second screenshot shows her confirmation email, showing she paid $562 for an upgraded seat. However, the confirmation email doesn’t include a seat number. While passengers can select seats beforehand, seat assignments are not guaranteed, according to the airline’s website.

When Collins went to sit down, she says a white woman was in the spot. Collins says a flight attendant asked her to wait off the plane, back in the boarding area, until they figured it out.

“I’m so annoyed, because instead of having her move, they let her keep my seat,” Collins says. “I paid all that money for an upgrade for them to give my seat to a white lady.”

Collins says the solution the flight attendant ended up coming up with was to give Collins a row to herself. But Collins says a white couple wanted to sit together and asked her to move. Collins says that when she declined, the woman took it upon herself to move Collins’ stuff to the other seat.

@collinskaye I was so annoyed! I truly felt i was treated unfairly and that her privilege allowed for this to happen. Nothing bad to her because she probably didnt know . This is totally the airlines fault ! But who should i start flying with next !? #fypシ #fy #foryou #tiktok #fyp #explore #explorepage✨ #foruyou #foryoupage ♬ original sound – Collins.Kaye

Collins says she requested a refund.

In a follow-up video, Collins says a senior-level representative reached out and told her that the airline was conducting an investigation that will be completed in 48 hours.

When will American Airlines move people who have upgraded seats?

Collins also recorded the phone conversation she had with the American Airlines representative. The representative tells her the airline is allowed to move people in upgraded seats if a person with a bassinet or wheelchair needs the seat due to the added legroom. In that case, a refund is not owed as long as the original seat holder ends up in a comparable seat.

“I acknowledge how distressing it must have been to find your seat that was changed to a row with three seats at the last minute,” the representative tells her. “We guarantee the upgrade on the cabin, but we don’t guarantee the seat.”

This is what the official company policy states: “American Airlines reserves the right to assign or reassign a Main Cabin Extra or a Preferred seat at any time for operational, safety, or security reasons. In situations where this occurs and you’re not reseated into a seat like that, you will be eligible for a refund.”

Collins says she told the representative that the incident felt race-related because the desires of a white woman were seemingly prioritized over those of a young Black woman. Collins says the representative insisted the airline doesn’t discriminate.

“We don’t tolerate any type of discriminatory behavior from our passengers or employees,” the representative says, adding that her department specializes in discrimination cases. “That’s very important for us to investigate and see. There’s no way we going to allow to get any discriminatory behavior from our employees.”

@collinskaye American Airlines called me . Quick update . They have opened a investigation . #fypシ #fy #foryou #tiktok #fyp #explore #explorepage✨ #foruyou #foryoupage #longervideos ♬ original sound – Collins.Kaye

In her latest update on the matter, Collins says that another American Airlines representative told her similar information. “She told me they are allowed to bump the [seats] due to special accommodations, such as bassinets for babies or wheelchair accommodations,” Collins recalls.

Collins says she doesn’t know if the woman was in a wheelchair. “I never seen her walking or in a wheelchair to get on the plane,” she says.

She also explains why she felt like the incident was race-related after viewers questioned “why did [she] bring up a race.” “The people who asking apparently do not look like minorities,” she says. “The people who look like me understand why I put [the other customer’s] skin color out there.”

“If you haven’t experienced discrimination, or being treated differently, because of the color of your skin, you’re not going to understand or see through my lens or feel how I feel,” she says.

@collinskaye Replying to @ShekeenaKR American airlines is giving me a full refund #foryou #fy #foryoupage #longervideos #fypage ♬ original sound – Collins.Kaye

“I was so annoyed! I truly felt i was treated unfairly and that her privilege allowed for this to happen,” Collins said in the caption of her original video. “Nothing bad to her because she probably didnt know . This is totally the airlines fault.”

Collins says she feels the airline has handled the situation so poorly that she’s contemplating giving up her loyalty and no longer flying with American.

Viewers weigh in

People in the comments section of her initial video had a lot to say, and plenty offered advice.

“File a consumer complaint with Department of Transportation,” a person recommended. (Which you can do here, though they recommend first trying to sort things out with the airline.)

“REFUND!!! Call corporate,” another suggested.

“Bless your heart for remaining that calm with all that disrespect going on,” a commenter wrote.

In a reply, Collins says she felt she had no choice but to stay calm. Otherwise, she says she feared they wouldn’t let her on the plane and might put her on the no-fly list.

Other reasons you may be asked to change seats on a plane

One of the most common reasons for a seat change are to keep families together. There are times when families or couples book their seats and aren’t able to find open seats next to each other, so flight attendants will check with other passengers to see if they’d be willing to relocate to help them out, Travel and Leisure reported.

Another reason is if there is an aircraft weight imbalance. Everything from a plane’s fuel, to the cargo and luggage, to the actual passengers affects how much weight it’s carrying and most importantly where. See, to fly safely planes must have a balanced weight load. It would be dangerous for a plane that has more weight in the front, the back, or on one of the sides to take off. While this happens less frequently on full flights, in rare occasions flight attendants must rearrange flyers to rebalance the plane, Simple Flying reported.

Recent American Airlines controversies

American Airlines has come under fire over the last few months for what passengers say is poor treatment and mismanagement. Most recently, an American Airlines customer said she had a “nightmare sleepover” at the airport after American allegedly overbooked the flight and kicked her and several other passengers off. She said the only guaranteed consolation prize was a $12 food voucher.

Another customer said that after making people miss their connecting flights, the airline didn’t give passengers the hotel vouchers it promised. And yet another showed that when she tried to handle a problem through customer service, representatives automatically hung up on her.

The Daily Dot reached out to Collins for comment via email.

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