An ex-flight attendant who was terminated by Spirit Airlines because she couldn’t fit in the crew jumpseat is suing the Miramar-based carrier on the grounds of race discrimination, claiming that a white flight attendant who had the same problem was given more time to lose weight to fit in the jumpseat.
Chelsia Blackmon has accused Spirit Air of racial discrimination in violation of the federal Civil Rights Act and the Florida Civil Rights Act following her dismissal in November 2021.
In her lawsuit filed in District Court for South Florida, Blackmon is demanding an unspecified amount in compensation in the form of back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.
Blackmon is an African American woman who had completed her flight attendant training program with Spirit Airlines. During her training course, Blackmon was required to show that she could strap herself into a flight attendant jumpseat with a four-point harness.
In her lawsuit, Blackmon says she successfully proved she could buckle into the various jumpseats and harnesses used across Spirit’s Airbus A320 series aircraft and had flown multiple trips across various aircraft without any issues.
But on September 3, 2021, Blackmon was assigned to work on an Airbus A319 jet and discovered that, due to her size, she wasn’t able to buckle up the harness.
Flight attendants are not permitted to use seatbelt extenders, so Blackmon was forced to deplane and lost her trip. She was then placed on administrative leave and following a short investigation, the airline demanded that she be able to prove she could fit in a flight attendant jumpseat.
Just over a month later, Blackmon was told to buckle herself into a jumpseat “that was too small for her”. When she couldn’t fit in the jumpseat, she was suspended and a few weeks later had her employment terminated.
While Blackmon doesn’t question Spirit’s right to sack her over her size, she claims a white flight attendant in the same predicament was given several months to fit in the jumpseat.
Blackmon accuses Spirit of giving her less time to fit into the jumpseat because of her race – a decision she describes as “wilful and malicious and in reckless disregard” of her civil rights.
The lawsuit does not explain whether Blackmon put on additional weight after completing her training course, or whether she believes some jumpseat harnesses were smaller than designed.
Like most airlines, Spirit makes the “ability to sit in an assigned jump seat with seatbelt and shoulder harness fastened” a condition of employment. The airline has not, however, replied to a request for comment.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.