Delta Airlines is doing social media damage control after a black doctor’s story of how a Delta flight attendant allegedly refused to let her help an ailing passenger went viral, leading many to call for the company to launch an internal investigation.
Last Sunday, Dr. Tamika Cross wrote a lengthy Facebook post describing what she says was a blatant act of racism on Delta’s part. At some point during her flight, a man became unresponsive and the pilot put out a call to anyone with professional medical experience who could help. According to Cross, when she initially tried to tell an unnamed flight attendant that she was a practicing OB/GYN, the Delta employee responded by saying that they were “looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel.”
“I tried to inform her that I was a physician but I was continually cut off by condescending remarks,” Cross wrote.
When another call went out for any medical professionals on board to come forward, Cross repeated that she was, in fact, a doctor, only to be questioned about her credentials.
“She said ‘let me see your credentials. What type of Doctor are you? Where do you work? Why were you in Detroit,” Cross described. “Please remember this man is still in need of help and she is blocking my row from even standing up while bombarding me with questions.”
Cross became convinced that the flight attendant was questioning her bona fides as a doctor because of her race when a white man who also identified himself as a physician came forward and was led to the passenger in need without being asked to provide his credentials.
“Mind you he hasn’t shown anything to her. Just showed up and fit the ‘description of a doctor,'” Cross said. “I stay seated. Mind blown. Blood boiling.”
As word of Cross’s alleged experience spread, people began to use the hashtag #WhatDoctorsLookLike to show the world that black doctors actually exist and to call Delta out for making assumptions about Cross because of her race.
This afternoon, Delta responded to Cross’ accusations in a Facebook post of their own, insisting that the actions of the flight attendant she described did not reflect their corporate values.
“While there is much we can’t share because our investigation involves confidential personnel matters, we do want to share what we can,” the statement reads. “Three medical professionals identified themselves on the flight in question. Only one was able to produce documentation of medical training and that is the doctor who was asked to assist the customer onboard.”
This, of course, contradicts Cross’s allegation that the doctor who was asked to help wasn’t asked to produce his credentials.
Delta’s statement was also very careful in explaining why the flight attendant asked Cross about her documentation.
“Flight attendants are trained to collect information from medical volunteers offering to assist with an onboard medical emergency,” Delta said. “When an individual’s medical identification isn’t available, they’re instructed to ask questions such as where medical training was received or whether an individual has a business card or other documentation and ultimately to use their best judgment.”
According to the Aviation Medical Assistance Act of 1998, doctors and nurses aren’t liable for any damages caused by lawsuits that spring from treatment they provided on a flight, so long as they are able to provide proof of their medical experience. It’s unclear if this was what prompted the Delta attendant to ask Cross for her credentials.
According to Cross, the same flight attendant later apologized to her and offered her airline miles as a means of apologizing, but Cross refused.
“I don’t want skymiles in exchange for blatant discrimination,” Cross wrote. “Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it’s not right. She will not get away with this….and I will still get my skymiles.”