Singer, songwriter and Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am has been urged to retract allegations of racism he made against a Qantas flight attendant on Friday night or face the possibility of being sued for defamation. Will.i.am, whose real name is William Adams, 45, claimed a flight attendant had “aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour” on a flight between Brisbane and Sydney where he was flying to play a concert.
Will.i.am caused a Twitter storm with his allegations after deciding to share both the flight attendant’s name and her photo on the social media platform. Some of his 12.8 million followers went onto to make online threats towards the flight attendant who is now being supported by her employer and trade union.
This is how your greeted when you land from Brisbane to Sydney flying @qantas with a #RacistFlightattendant named Lorraine Marshall…She sent the police after me bacause I couldn’t hear the P.A while making beats on the plane wearing noise canceling headphones… pic.twitter.com/9xT7WqTUoO
— will.i.am (@iamwill) November 16, 2019
“I’m currently on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney. I’m sorry to say me and my group have experienced they worse (sic) service due to a overly aggressive flight attendant… I don’t want to believe she racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour,” the singer posted.
He later revealed that he had been met by officers from Australia’s Federal Police on arrival at Sydney airport, writing: “This is how your (sic) greeted when you land from Brisbane to Sydney flying @qantas with a #RacistFlightattendant named (name redacted)…She sent the police after me because I couldn’t hear the P.A while making beats on the plane wearing noise cancelling headphones…”
Qantas was quick to dismiss Will.i.am’s allegations, saying there had been a “misunderstanding” that was “exacerbated by will.i.am wearing noise-cancelling headphones and not being able to hear instructions from crew.” Will.i.am claimed other passengers backed his version of events but Qantas now says it has found evidence to substantiate his claims.
We live in 2019 & technology is advancing…they have WiFi is certain planes & noise canceling is becoming a standard…people who serve the paying public need to know that passengers have on devices that block out outside sound…sending the POLICE after them is a bit much 🤷🏿♂️ https://t.co/CZHJaMFLUE
— will.i.am (@iamwill) November 18, 2019
The airline has now said it is willing to support the flight attendant sue Will.i.am unless he makes a formal apology and restracts the allegations. In a statement to SBS News, a Qantas spokesperson explained:
“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.”
In a new update, Will.i.am took to Twitter to defend his stance, saying that sending the police to meet the plane was “a bit much” and that he had been raised to be “polite & treat people with respect”.
Teri O’Toole, secretary of the Flight Attendants Association of Australia also hit out at Will.i.am, saying it was “outrageous” that her members were being publicly vilified for simply doing their jobs.
“Cabin crew are aviation’s first responders – we’re there for emergency requirements, to protect and save the lives of passengers,” O’Toole told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“People who fly a lot should understand there are requirements and the fact that people are still fighting with us over those – I can’t explain it.”
Earlier this year, the union revealed that 97.5 per cent of cabin crew had been the victim of passenger abuse and a similar number said the abuse was happening more often.
I’m really upset at the way I was treated by a gate agent. Black musicians , DONT fly on @Qantas @QantasUSA He tried to make me check my guitar, & sign a waiver while he’s letting WHITE musicians walk right past us taking there’s onboard. Lost my window seat too! I’m done!!!! pic.twitter.com/MujIpUF6Op
— Eric ‘Pikfunk’ Smith (@Pikfunk) November 16, 2019
The latest twist in this story comes as Janet Jackson’s bassist joins Will.i.am in accusing Qantas of racial profiling. Eric Smith, who was flying betwen Brisbane and Sydney on Saturday said he had been asked to gate check his instrument, while white musicians were allowed to board the aircraft with their instruments.
In response, Qantas said it was required to confirm that passengers had made prior arrangements with the airline to take their instruments on board. In the end, Qantas allowed Smith to board the aircraft with his bass but he took to Twitter to say he was unhappy that he had “lost” his window seat because of the instrument.