A race row has erupted after two black musicians claim they were forced to move from business class to accommodate a white woman on a flight operated by a British Airways franchise.
Thabo Mabogwane and Bongani Mohosana – aka Black Motion – bought business class tickets on a Comair flight – which flies under the British Airways brand in South Africa – from Cape Town to Johannesburg on 4 December.
They say that after a white woman complained about her seat being broken they were forced to move into the economy section and then kicked off the plane after they complained.
In an Instagram post, Mohasana said: “We were embarrassed and removed from business class just because a white lady complained about a broken seat.”
“We were told they can’t risk to fly us as they are avoiding 9/11. In their eyes we are terrorists the captain said indirectly.”
A spokesperson for Comair told The Independent: “The situation arose as two damaged business class seats were not removed from the check-in system, as should have happened. As a result two customers were checked-in and allocated seats in which they could not fly.
“These customers were both silver card frequent flyer members, who are prioritised as a matter of global policy. In considering who could be asked to downgrade, the airport staff then identified non-frequent flyers travelling on discounted business class fares.
“This is common airline practice on rare occasions when downgrades occur. It was on this basis that two other customers in business class were approached.
“Understandably they were upset. The crew was under pressure because the flight was already delayed, but should have handled the situation better.
“Comair will not tolerate racism, which is why we have taken the allegations very seriously and investigated swiftly and thoroughly. We have asked the customers if they would like the investigation independently reviewed.”
A spokesman for South Africa’s third biggest party, the left-wing EFF, told the national parliament: “British Airways can go fly in its colonial and ever racist Britain. Whomsoever is white and not willing to treat black people with dignity and respect must simply leave our country.”
BA said, on its its website: “As franchise partner of British Airways and a member of the Oneworld alliance, Comair offers seamless connections to the international route network and continues to serve local premium customers with the same standards in mind.”