Will.i.am. called Qantas flight attendant racist, airline will back her if she sues him

"We completely reject the suggestion this had anything to do with race," Qantas said in a statement.
Image: Will.i.am
Will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas performs on stage during Cruilla Festival at Parc del Forum on July 3, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain.Jordi Vidal / Redferns file

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By Janelle Griffith

Australian airline Qantas Airways said it will support a flight attendant if she chooses to sue musician Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, who called her racist on Twitter and posted her name and photograph.

“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,” a spokeswoman said.

Will.i.am, whose real name is William Adams, said in a series of tweets he was on a flight Friday from Brisbane to Sydney while on his Australian tour when he and his group encountered an "overly aggressive flight attendant."

Will.i.am said he did not want to believe she was racist, but she "clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour."

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He said the flight attendant requested federal police officers meet him at the gate when he landed because he did not immediately stow his laptop before landing. He said he could not hear the announcement instructing him to stow the device because he was wearing noise-canceling headphones but that he "quickly and politely" complied when asked, only to be greeted by police.

The flight attendant, whom he named in a handful of tweets, was "beyond rude" and "took it to the next level" by calling the police, he said. Will.i.am, who has more than 12 million followers, also used the hashtag #racistflightattendant in multiple tweets.

Some Twitter users took exception with Will.i.am naming the flight attendant publicly, including one who accused him of intimidation.

"But mate why not just go though a normal complaint process? Do you understand the intimidation and abuse you are subjecting this woman to with your post?," the Twitter user wrote.

Will.i.am responded that it was his way of filing a "proper complaint" and the way in which he believed his protest would be heard.

"I’m using the same tool you would use if you were wrongly accused of doing something & pulled away by police officers," Will.i.am said. "I still don’t know what I did wrong for police to come."

The Grammy Award winner also said that he did not intend for anyone to target the flight attendant.

He said in a tweet Saturday that he did not regret taking to Twitter to speak for those who do not have a voice and who felt the same disrespect. He also said he does not support abuse and attacks directed at the flight attendant.

"I hope that everyone can be more compassionate & understanding towards one another...because it was the lack of compassion that caused this," he said.

Qantas said in a statement Saturday the incident was the result of a misunderstanding that seems to have been exacerbated by Will.i.am's use of noise-canceling headphones.

"We completely reject the suggestion this had anything to do with race," the airline said.