New face drops fresh Qantas bombshell

 

After Australian pop duo The Veronicas weighed in on the drama surrounding Black Eyed Peas star will.i.am, who accused a Qantas flight attendant of racism after a tense incident on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney on Saturday, another international star has slammed the airline over similar treatment.

Bass guitarist Eric Smith, who is travelling with Janet Jackson as part of her Australian tour, alleges he was racially profiled and not allowed to board a Qantas flight with his guitar shortly after the incident with will.i.am unfolded on the weekend.

Speaking to Melbourne's KIIS 101.1's Jase & PJ on Monday, Smith defended will.i.am's actions, saying he was targeted by ground staff in the moments before he boarded his plane.

"I'm sitting at the gate area," he told the breakfast radio show.

"I'm pretty close to where they're scanning the tickets. The guy comes to me with a piece of paper and says, 'I need you to sign this, and I need you to give me your guitar'.

"He says it was a waiver for damages because we have to stick the guitar under the plane, and we're not responsible for damages.'"

Eric Smith pictured with Janet Jackson.
Eric Smith pictured with Janet Jackson.

Smith, who said he'd been travelling around the country with his guitar for the duration of the tour, hadn't been advised previously he couldn't bring his instrument on-board as carry-on luggage.

"The issue is, they pulled me to the side, and other white passengers had their instruments on their backs, getting scanned to go on the plane. Why don't they have to check their instrument?" he said.

Smith, who tweeted about the incident four hours after Will.i.am took to social media about his ordeal, said he questioned the Qantas staff member on why the other passengers didn't have to check in their instruments.

"He told me that wasn't my concern," Smith explained.

Smith (left) claims he was told his guitar couldn't be taken on the plane as carry-on luggage but other musicians were free to have theirs on-board.
Smith (left) claims he was told his guitar couldn't be taken on the plane as carry-on luggage but other musicians were free to have theirs on-board.

"He said it was at the flight attendant's discretion, and the flight attendant said I wasn't allowed to bring my instrument on.

"We've literally flown Qantas every single flight (on this tour).

"I was very calm … I wasn't trying to be the guy (saying), 'What's your name, let me speak to your supervisor' - I never went there with the guy. I said, 'Sorry, I'm just trying to work'."

A spokesperson from Qantas, however, said there was "nothing out of the ordinary" about a crew member asking a musician to check-in their instrument ahead of a flight.

"When musicians bring over-size instruments on-board like guitars, our crew are required to ensure that this has been prearranged," the statement read.

"We have not received a formal complaint from Mr Smith about this flight."

On Saturday, will.i.am tweeted while he was still on the plane, telling his 12.8 million followers he had been mistreated by an "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," he said.

Will.i.am said the incident took place as the crew was preparing to land the flight in Sydney.

He said the incident happened about 20 minutes into the flight when he had not heard announcements over the PA because he was wearing noise-cancelling headphones.

He was then confronted by the flight attendant when he did not put away his laptop fast enough.

When the plane landed, he was met by five police officers who let him go without further incident.

Will.i.am said a Qantas flight attendant was ‘racist’ and ‘beyond rude’. Picture: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize.
Will.i.am said a Qantas flight attendant was ‘racist’ and ‘beyond rude’. Picture: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize.

"Qantas, your racist flight attendant was beyond rude and took it to the next level by calling the police on me. Thank god the other passengers testified that she was out of control. The police finally let me go. Imagine if the police were as aggressive," he said.

"Is calling the police on a passenger for not hearing the PA due to wearing noise cancelling headphones appropriate?

"I did comply quickly and politely, only to be greeted by police. I think I was targeted."

He went on to allege the flight attendant "singled every person of colour in the flight and gave them a hard time", and that "other passengers on the flight agreed that she was out of hand".

Songwriter and rapper will.i.am hit out at Qantas on Saturday, claiming the airline targeted him because of his race. Picture: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File.
Songwriter and rapper will.i.am hit out at Qantas on Saturday, claiming the airline targeted him because of his race. Picture: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File.

On Sunday morning, Australian duo The Veronicas tweeted "in support" of the singer, claiming the same flight attendant was involved in an incident with them as well.

"We feel sickened she was given no reprisal and has instead continued to abuse her position, discriminate and misuse the full force and intimidation of the Australian Federal Police to her agenda," they tweeted.

"Qantas should have run a genuine investigation into the matter, instead of shifting blame and denying accountability."

Sisters Lisa and Jess Origliasso made headlines after they were "embarrassingly" removed from a Qantas aircraft by three federal police.

At the time, the Aussie pop duo said the ordeal was "crazy" and "confusing", but the airline hit back, saying the twins "refused to follow crew instructions" on the flight from Sydney to Brisbane and were therefore deemed a security risk.

The Veronicas claims the flight attendant involved in will.i.am’s incident also gave them a hard time. Picture: Supplied.
The Veronicas claims the flight attendant involved in will.i.am’s incident also gave them a hard time. Picture: Supplied.

Qantas has denied the incident with will.i.am was race related, instead putting it down to a "misunderstanding".

"There was a misunderstanding on-board, which seems to have been exacerbated by will.i.am wearing noise cancelling headphones and not being able to hear instructions from crew," an airline spokesman said.

"We completely reject the suggestion this had anything to do with race. We'll be following up with will.i.am and wish him well for the rest of the tour."

Smith is in Australia with Janet Jackson's tour.
Smith is in Australia with Janet Jackson's tour.