Indigenous scholar and filmmaker Nikki Sanchez accuses WestJet of racism

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      A former Vice producer enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Victoria has posted a serious allegation about one of Canada's major air carriers.

      Nikki Sanchez, a Maya Pipil woman who traces her roots back to Central America, claimed that a WestJet attendant accused her of being inebriated.

      This occurred after Sanchez, who is also of Scottish and Irish ancestry, inquired about a connecting flight from Victoria to Vancouver after five weather delays on January 15.

      "She took one look at me and did not ask for my name or flight number, and instead she asked if I had been drinking," Sanchez wrote on Instagram. "I honestly replied that I had had 2 drinks in the last 5 hours I'd been waiting for the flight.

      "She said, 'You smell like booze,' and, 'I know you guys can't handle your alcohol.' I was so shocked I barely knew how to respond—I explained my credentials and that I was not at all inebriated."

      Sanchez's eight-part Viceland documentary series on an Indigenous comeback was honoured as the best documentary at the Canadian Screen Awards. She was also named "Queen of Green" by famed environmentalist David Suzuki.

      Sanchez alleged that when she asked for help so she wouldn't miss a connecting flight to New York City, the WestJet staffer replied that she "was a liability to any airline, including WestJet".

      "She refused to help me at all, nor did she make any mention of how I could retrieve my luggage which had already been sent through to YVR," Sanchez wrote. "I was in complete shock."

      View this post on Instagram

      Please SHARE. Last week, during the snow storm I was flying out of YYJ to Vancouver to reach my connecting flight to New York. I was on my way there for a campaign on fair trade and environmentally sustainable fashion. After 5 weather delays I went back through security to speak to the @westjet attendant at checkin, to see if I was going to make my connecting flight to YVR & if not whether she could help me trouble shoot to find alternate solution. She took one look at me, did not ask for my name or flight number, and instead she asked if I had been drinking - I honestly replied that I had had 2 drinks in the 5 hours I’d been waiting for the flight. She said “you smell like booze” and “I know you guys can’t handle your alcohol”. I was so shocked I barely knew how to respond - I explained my credentials and that I was not at all inebriated. I then asked for her to at least help me find an alternative flight to get to YVR so I would not miss my connection to NYC. Her response was that I was a liability to any airline, including WestJet. She refused to help me at all, nor did she make any mention of how I could retrieve my luggage which had already been sent through to YVR. I was in complete shock. At the departing gates, I told an Air Canada representative what happened, he was appalled & got me on the next Air Canada flight to YVR. Sadly by the time I got there I’d missed my connecting and there were no other flights that would get me to NYC in time to make the photo shoot. I have since spoken to the customer complaints at WestJet, other than “sincere apologies” they offered no recourse. I have spoken to lawyers & media & also spent a few days having anxiety attacks (the girl who said this to me was the only WestJet attendant working so even though I asked to speak to a manger there wasn’t one there). WestJet needs to know what a serious matter this is & commit to anti-oppression training for all staff. Please repost this to your story, feed or twitter, and share. Tag @westjet and use the hashtag #boycottwestjet - it’s my sincere hope no one else will ever be treated this way based on racial bias. Thank you - I appreciate you all so much 🙌🏽

      A post shared by Nikki La'es (@nikkilaes) on

      Sanchez is a former producer with Vice, which reported that she missed her chance to reach New York City for a photo shoot.

      A WestJet spokesperson told Vice that the airline is conducting an investigation and that it "has a zero tolerance policy for racism and discrimination".

      Below, you can see a TEDx talk that Sanchez delivered last year about decolonization.

      Video: Watch Nikki Sanchez's TEDx talk about how decolonization is for everyone.

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