A Black female Spirit Airlines passenger says she was forced to find a new seat on a flight from Las Vegas to Chicago when a white woman refused to sit next to her.
In a series of Facebook posts, Tiarra Dowdell said her flight from Detroit was delayed 12 hours, so she was unexpectedly placed on flight NK 446 on June 25.
When Tiarra boarded the plane and approached the open seat, a "Russian" woman said she was not going to allow Tiarra to sit next to her.
"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," Tiarra 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."
Eventually, Tiarra switched seats with a different white passenger, who was allowed to sit with no issue by the woman.
“I had to ask someone to switch seats with me because she didn’t want to sit by a black woman in 2019!” Tiarra wrote in the posts.
“This 4-hour flight is about to feel like a lifetime. I’m am so embarrassed and heartbroken,” she added.
Although flight attendants thanked her later for being a “team player,” Tiarra was outraged she was the one who was forced to move, instead of the passenger she claims was being racist.
“I shouldn’t have needed to switch seats to accommodate her choice of what race she wanted next to her and her husband,” she wrote.
After the flight, the woman allegedly approached Tiarra with an apology and claimed she didn’t want Tiarra to sit next to her because the flight crew said the seat was going to be empty.
"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 wrote. "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."
In her posts, Tiarra criticized the Spirit Airlines crew for not escorting the woman off the plane after she refused to allow Tiarra to sit.
“Why do I have to be a team player to someone who is obviously putting her racist cards on the table,” Tiarra wrote on Facebook.
In a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle, Spirit Airlines says it has “zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind on our flights,” and has taken action to remedy the incident.
“[Spirit Airlines has] launched an investigation into this incident and we have reached out directly to the Guest to address her concerns,” reads a statement from Spirit Airlines media relation manager Derek Dombrowski.
“Spirit Airlines has zero-tolerance for discrimination of any kind on our flights and we pride ourselves on providing an inclusive and safe environment for our Guests.”
It remains unclear what specific action Spirit Airlines took after the incident.
Although Tiarra was mortified and hurt by the experience, she said she was comforted by the other passengers who reportedly booed the woman and were “calling her a racist.”
“At the end of the day, I was able to come home to my kid to share my experience with you all,” Tiarra explained on Facebook. “This was my experience I handled it the best way that I could.”