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Qantas defends staff after will.i.am alleges ‘racism’ and ‘worst service’ experience

Qantas Airways has been called out by US rapper and Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am for alleged racism by an “overly aggressive” flight attendant. The entertainer alleged that the flight attendant had later called in the police on him once he reached his destination “because [he] couldn’t hear the P.A. while making beats on the plane wearing noise cancelling headphones”. Will.i.am added that the flight attendant was “beyond rude and took it to the next level” by calling the police.

In a series recent of tweets, the rapper shared that he, along with his entourage, was on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney and  “experienced the worst service due to an overly aggressive flight attendant”. Initially, will.i.am did not specify the airline, adding that “I don’t want to believe she [is] racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour”. In a subsequent tweet, will.i.am posted a picture of a police man, saying: “This is how [you’re] greeted when you land from Brisbane to Sydney flying Qantas, with a #racistflightattendant.”

He added: “Is calling the police on a passenger for not hearing [the] P.A. due to wearing noise-cancelling headphones appropriate? If I didn’t put away my laptop ‘in a rapid 2min time’ I’d understand. I did comply quickly and politely, only to be greeted by police. I think I was targeted.”

Some Twitter users who were on the same plane said they experienced the same issue and showed support for will.i.am. Meanwhile, others criticised the rapper for naming the flight attendant and told him to behave professionally and file a proper complaint.

In a statement to Marketing, Qantas’ spokesperson said there was a misunderstanding on board, which which seemed to have been exacerbated by will.i.am wearing noise cancelling headphones and not being able to hear instructions from crew.

“We completely reject the suggestion this had anything to do with race. We’ll be following up with will.i.am and wish him well for the rest of the tour,” the spokesperson said.

According to multiple media reports, Qantas also asked will.i.am to retract his statement. “Absent a retraction, and if the crew member wanted to take the matter further, we’d certainly be willing to provide legal support for them to do this,” the spokesperson told Marketing.

Recently, the airline said it is expecting an annual spending of approximately SG$1.85 billion in the second half of its financial year ending 30 June 2020, an increase from SG$1.48 billion in 2018. The increase in spend will be used to refresh the cabins of its Airbus SE A380s and purchase new Boeing Co 787-9 planes.

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