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@collinskaye/TikTok (Fair Use) Robin Guess/Shutterstock (Licensed)

Main Character of the Week: Woman who had poor customer service on American Airlines 

The story landed like a bomb and sparked discussion because of the emotions it carries. 


Ramon Ramirez


Main Character of the Week is a weekly column that tells you the most prominent “main character” online (good or bad). It runs on Fridays in the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter. If you want to get this column a day before we publish it, subscribe to web_crawlr, where you’ll get the daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.

The internet is a stage, and someone unwillingly stumbles onto it weekly. This makes them the “main character” online. Sometimes their story is heartwarming, like the DoorDash drivers who lie about their gender; usually it’s a gaffe. In any case, that main character energy flows through the news cycle and turbo-charges debate for several business days.

Here’s the 
Trending team’s main character of the week.

“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,” our Main Character of the Week said on social media.

This story was cut-and-dry but layered: A Black woman, Kaneisha Collins (@collinskaye), booked a seat upgrade and she had a poor customer experience aboard American Airlines when she found a white woman in her seat. She took to social media to note that she felt discriminated against, and because of the racial element, American Airlines responded.

As the airline told us this week: “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.”

An airline rep later told Collins: “We don’t tolerate any type of discriminatory behavior from our passengers or employees.” Collins says the airline gave her a full refund. Collins did not respond to our request for comment.

“Bless your heart for remaining that calm with all that disrespect going on,” a viewer of her viral TikTok wrote. It had 1 million pageviews at the time of publication.

The story landed like a bomb and sparked discussion because of the emotions it carries

Summer travel is stressful enough, and as a Mexican-American man with brown skin, being at the center of a public misunderstanding aboard an international flight to Italy from Philadelphia seems like my worst nightmare.

Last week I flew to Mexico City for a family reunion. I know that in a post-9/11 world being on my best behavior at the airport is paramount. I’m one of those ridiculous blowhards who has a problem with authority to begin with. The airport makes me nervous because I feel the need to suppress how I think and feel at all times.

I always fly out of San Antonio because it’s cheaper than my hometown of Austin, Texas. It is a very traditional city with a high population of fellow Hispanics but who are more socially conservative. Many of them serve in the military and the police. So I fit in by wearing my “Salute to Service” Dallas Cowboys cap. I sit up straight. I tip the shuttle driver. I’ll triple-check my luggage to make sure I left my vape at home. Smile, wave, nod, answer questions with “ma’am” and “sir.”

The airport is rich with comfortable and young white people who can afford to travel regularly, many of whom are so at home at the airport that they wear pajamas. The airport is a playground for white people; for non-white people, it is a courtroom and we’re on trial at all times.

It’s easy to relate to and feel empathy for the TikTok creator who felt singled out and profiled amid what was likely an earnest collective misunderstanding. It wasn’t a racist incident yet it was a racial matter, insofar as everything is one when you’re a minority of color in the U.S. who is trying to enjoy the white man’s playground world, too.

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