Treated Differently as an Asian Passenger

Old Sep 14, 19, 6:17 am
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Treated Differently as an Asian Passenger

This is an awkward topic that I don't discuss with people in real life, but it's been bothering me a lot recently:

As an Asian passenger, why do UA FAs and pilots almost never proactively say goodbye to me when I'm getting off the plane, which from my observation differs from the standard etiquette between the UA FAs and non-Asian passengers around me?

I've been flying at least 80 UA segments every year since 2016, and this has been true 9/10 times especially on short-haul domestic flights. Nowadays, I'd be surprised whenever the crew would proactively look at me and say "Thank you" or a simple "Bye" when I walk off the plane. Most commonly, the FA standing at the door would "conveniently" look away when I'm the one walking towards them and then off the plane. I always make sure to say thanks and goodbye, and it's a 50/50 chance they'd turn their head and respond.

This only stands out when I'm deplaning. I don't feel that I'm treated differently by the ground agents when boarding or FAs in-flight. My experiences on long-haul international flights are also very consistent, with FAs always thanking me when deplaning.

I moved to the U.S. in 2011 and have been flying UA regularly. I actually got an op-up on my very first CO flight from PEK to EWR. Now, I understand with its strong network to East Asia, UA crews probably run into many Asian passengers who don't speak much English. However in my experience, DL FAs (I did 70 DTW-BOS segments in 2018) would always thank and say goodbye to me. Also in my opinion, assuming the passenger doesn't speak English is not a very good reason to ignore them.

This is really a small thing, but with how frequently I get ignored it's been bothering me a lot recently. Putting ethnicity aside, I don't think I look intimidating enough (I'm 6'1 and probably bigger than an average guy from Asia, and honestly I'd rather have this be the actual reason I'm being ignored ) for almost all FAs to look away when I deplane, so I wonder for other Asian passengers if this has been your experience as well?

Edit: I'd like to appreciate everyone's replies here, as this is a topic I never have the courage to discuss in real life and it really isn't a huge deal to me on a personal level. Based on people's input, I conclude that -

1. Not everyone gets a goodbye at the end of a UA flight, regardless of ethnicity. This makes sense and does not indicate bad service at all, although my speculation is that, in comparison, DL may have specifically trained their crew to include a "friendly goodbye" for everyone, which when I fly a lot I do start to notice and appreciate DL's approach. Also, I forgot to mention originally - I do usually get a "Hello" (if I'm not the one who first smile & greet the FAs) on a UA flight when boarding if the FA is not busy, which partially sparked the confusion after being frequently ignored when deplaning in comparison to travelers around me.

2. On a broader-level, some fellow travelers of Asian background do notice subtle inconsistencies in services received by the UA staff. I wouldn't call this racism (or sexism as some replies mentioned) in a sense that the UA staff is intentionally providing bad service to Asians, but based on anecdotes (including mine), being treated differently outside of the standard services routine on a UA flight does seem to be potentially driven by ethnicity (or gender) bias. E.g., Asian face means most likely a traveler from Asia who doesn't speak English, so why bother saying "thank you" or repeat the question. There is no way to confirm this, and of course there could be many other factors, but I think the best I can do is to always assume the best intention and proactively respond with the same level of politeness.

I'd also like to again clarify that when flying in the U.S., I make my best effort to treat all staff with respect that aligns with my understanding of American etiquette (proactively smile, make eye contact & say thank you - in fact people usually assume I'm American until to be told otherwise). I do feel that I generally receive good service from UA whenever I get to properly communicate with the FAs and staff, however at this point it's very hard for me to believe that almost always being ignored when deplaning has absolutely nothing to do with some sort of bias based on my appearance and/or characteristics. However, being constantly ignored would not change how I behave when interacting with the UA staff at all. I will continue to respond to good service with my best self and hopefully change this subconscious bias, if there is any.

By the way, if there's anyone YVR-based: Are there any UA frequent fliers? I'm so excited to be moving to your fine city next year!!

Last edited by UNDLAC; Sep 16, 19 at 10:52 pm
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Old Sep 14, 19, 7:04 am
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It may be just UA vs DL things. I will pay more attention to this next time.
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Old Sep 14, 19, 7:10 am
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I havenít had this in UA, but plenty of times on AA. (Although I rarely fly UA these days...trying to move from AA to Delta, but difficult unless I want to add connections in my travel plans.)
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Old Sep 14, 19, 7:15 am
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Are the FAs at the door the same ones as you have interacted on board? For example, if you're seated in FC, does the FC ignore you when deplaning? If it's another FA, that FA might be assuming that you don't speak English.
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Old Sep 14, 19, 7:25 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
If it's another FA, that FA might be assuming that you don't speak English.
Although maybe true, it is a poor excuse, as there's hardly anyone alive on this planet who wouldn't understand a nod and a "Goodbye" in that context.

Maybe silence is better than this though:

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Old Sep 14, 19, 7:34 am
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At least you didn't get Dao'd!
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Old Sep 14, 19, 7:41 am
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Last edited by UNDLAC; Oct 2, 19 at 8:48 am Reason: merged consecutive posts by same member
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Old Sep 14, 19, 7:52 am
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Yes, I have observed OP's assertion, a lot.

I have seen it the other way, recently on a regional UX flight - EWR to CVG. Apparently a large contention of Asian travelers on the flight, FA greeted each of them; however, no responses whatsoever from almost all of them.
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Old Sep 14, 19, 7:57 am
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I'm white and get a goodbye of some on maybe a 3rd of flights, maybe less.
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Old Sep 14, 19, 7:59 am
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As an Asian American man in his 30s, I havenít noticed different treatment by FAs because of my race (though Iím also not looking out for it).

Iím based in New York and only fly UA domestically since they are the only airline that flies to SNA non-stop from the NYC area.

One time, while flying HKG-EWR on UA180, I handed a FA my water bottle to be filled with water. It was a clear plastic water bottle (as opposed to an insulated metal bottle). The FA handed my water bottle back to me filled with hot water. I was surprised... because I asked for water (which, in my mind, would be room temperature water... if I wanted hot water, I wouldíve asked for hot water). I told the FA I didnít want hot water, I just wanted water at room temperature or cold water. She was like, ďoh!Ē and somehow made it out to be my fault.

I think most of her Asian passengers in the past have asked for hot water, so naturally, she would assume that I also wanted hot water because I am Asian. I chalked that encounter up to habit.

Another time, while flying SNA-SFO on UX in F, the FA serving our cabin didnít believe I was over 21 and refused to serve me wine. I was 28 at the time, had left my ID in my backpack, and wasnít going to get out of my seat just to prove to her my age. I know theyíre required to ask for your ID when you look under the age of 35, but that experience did leave a bad taste in my mouth (I was on my way to Paris and wanted to treat myself!). She might not have asked a 28 year old white guy for his ID, but this is definitely an instance where the ďAsian donít raisinĒ euphemism can definitely work against you! After that incident, my ID is always handy, though Iím only ever carded on the west coast.

Nowadays, FAs will usually acknowledge me as Iím exiting the aircraft, but itís probably because Iím more inclined to speak up (my IFE isnít working! The internet isnít working! My Ďvegetarian mealí consisted of lettuce and slices of lemon... what the hell?!).

Iíd also draw the distinction between foreign born Asian Americans who immigrated to the U.S. later in their lives; Asian Americans who came to the U.S. when they were young; and Asian Americans who are born in the United States. Most Asian Americans are from the first two categories and may experience more discrimination.
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Last edited by NYC2SGN; Sep 14, 19 at 8:08 am
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Old Sep 14, 19, 7:59 am
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Last edited by UNDLAC; Oct 2, 19 at 8:51 am
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Old Sep 14, 19, 8:04 am
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My Korean wife is treated much better than me on United. I am treated much better than her on Asiana.
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Old Sep 14, 19, 8:06 am
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Originally Posted by KosherKimchee View Post
My Korean wife is treated much better than me on United. I am treated much better than her on Asiana.
On Asiana I would attribute the difference to the observation that you're apparently male and your wife is apparently female. In Korea, men are treated much better than women in many situations.
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Old Sep 14, 19, 8:18 am
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I'm a white dude who did an expat assignment in China last year. Believe it not many places would give me a fork even though I have reasonable skill with chop sticks. And I had to ask to get non room temperature beer. Oh the horror.
Maybe they don't say good bye because you don't engage them. Try smiling and give a head nod and you'll get a hello or good bye every time.
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Old Sep 14, 19, 8:28 am
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As someone who stands at the door saying goodbye, I try to say something to almost everyone. Occasionally I do take a brief timeout especially with certain passengers, who for reasons I don't fully get, walk up the aisle and out the door without so much as a lookup. Those passengers are less likely to get at "Buh Bye", "thanks for flying with us", "have a nice day" etc.

If you walk up, make eye contact and say something, anything, I guarantee you almost everyone in my industry will say something back to you. So I would ask the OP, forget about race for a second, what is YOUR behavior as you walk up the aisle towards those standing there? That would give us more information about what might be going on.
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