Black passengers downgraded from business class 'to make way for white woman' on Comair flight

Simon Calder

Two black musicians claim they were kicked off a British Airways-branded flight in South Africa to make way for a white woman.

Thabo Mabogwane and Bongani Mohosana, who make up the Black Motion duo, had bought business-class tickets from Cape Town to Johannesburg on Comair on Monday 4 December. The airline flies in BA colours in South Africa.

The musicians say that after a white woman complained that her seat was broken and she needed to move, they were asked to downgrade to economy class.

In an Instagram post, Bongani "Murdah" Mohasana said: “Black Motion happened to be the only two young black men in the British airline business class.

“We were embarrassed and removed from business class just because a white lady complained about a broken seat.”

After they objected to being moved, they say, the captain ordered them to leave the aircraft.

“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,” the post continued.

They were allowed to travel on a later flight on the same airline.

Comair’s chief executive, Erik Venter, has apologised unreservedly to the passengers.

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.

Law of motion: Instagram post from Bongani Mohosana of Black Motion (Bongani Mohosana)

“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.”

The left-wing EFF, the third-biggest party in South Africa’s parliament, called for the entire crew to be suspended “and face the full might of the law”.

The party’s national spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Quintin Ndlozi, said: “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.”

The airline says on 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.”