Flight was like a police state, says will.i.am

Hip hop star will.i.am has described his treatment aboard a Qantas flight as "like a police state" after the airline called police to greet him on arrival at Sydney airport.

The Black Eyed Peas frontman claimed he had an "aggressive" and "racist" encounter with a Qantas employee on his business class flight from Brisbane ahead of his concert last night at Homebush.

"I've never seen this, it was like a police state," will.i.am told The Sunday Telegraph.

"I am the coolest traveller, I don't ask for much. I try to stay out of their way. I come on the plane to go to sleep or I go to work."

The artist, who says he loves Australia, said the episode took place as the crew was preparing the cabin to land in Sydney.

Working on new music on his laptop, the musician wore noise-cancelling headphones and says he didn't hear the crew instructions, prompting the flight attendant to allegedly single him out.

Will.i.am’s initial tweet about the flight.
Will.i.am’s initial tweet about the flight.

"The reason why I am so shocked is that I didn't have a confrontation with the flight attendant," he said.

"She asked me to put my laptop away and I put it away and I told her to relax because the whole flight she was stressed.

"Yeah, I didn't hear the PA but we had no confrontation.

"The reason I took to Twitter was I just felt that if she was this abusive to me and other folks that I saw, she must be abusive to other people as well."

On landing, Australian Federal Police officers met the plane and discussed the incident with will.i.am, who shared an image of the flight attendant's Facebook profile picture to his nearly 13 million followers on Twitter.

"I wish no harm to that lady, hopefully this is a lesson," he said.

"She shouldn't lose her job over it - if anything she should be retrained on how to deal with people. This is an opportunity to be pleasant to everyone, to just be nice."

The 44-year-old defended his decision to identify the woman, saying: "My taking to Twitter was thinking of all the other folks that aren't me and all of the abuse that people have to take or being felt like cattle or sheep, being talked down to," he said.

The Black Eyed Peas — apl.de.ap, will.i.am and Taboo — are touring Australia. Picture: Richard Dobson
The Black Eyed Peas — apl.de.ap, will.i.am and Taboo — are touring Australia. Picture: Richard Dobson

"Yes, there are some flight attendants that are amazing, like my flight from Sydney to Brisbane, those people were so nice … they made everyone laugh and feel comfortable. It was an amazing crew but I have never had this experience before."

Qantas issued a statement saying: "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. We completely reject the suggestion this had anything to do with race."

The version on will.i.am's Twitter feed, which began about 12.30pm yesterday, described the attendant as "overly aggressive … I don't want to believe she racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour."

The artist, whose real name is William Adams, also posted a picture of a police officer at Sydney Airport.

Asked what action would be taken, the Qantas spokesman said: "We're looking into what occurred."

At the 2020 Breakthrough Prize earlier this month. Picture: Kimberly White
At the 2020 Breakthrough Prize earlier this month. Picture: Kimberly White

Another passenger, who declined to be named, said tensions began on the Brisbane tarmac when a different flight attendant told 50 Cent guitarist Travis Ferguson he could not have his guitar on board and would have to check it in.

The passenger said Ferguson left the plane but returned with the instrument, saying a different cabin crew member said he could take it aboard. A further disagreement ensued.

"He (Ferguson) says 'That's ridiculous' and 'I'm done with this discussion' and gets his phone out and the flight attendant says 'Look at me when I'm talking to you'," the passenger said.

According to the passenger, a second flight attendant then said words to the effect of: "If you have a problem you can get off my plane."

"All this is happening behind will.i.am and he's got his noise-cancelling headphones on, so he is oblivious," the passenger said. Subsequently the second attendant spoke to will.i.am about closing his laptop.

When the plane landed in Sydney, the passenger said two police officers came on board and spoke to will.i.am.

"(At one stage) one of the Black Eyed Peas guys got his phone out and started recording and the flight attendant says 'You have to delete that'," the passenger said.

"She demanded to see his phone to check he had he deleted it.

"They didn't say any racist words, but they only treated the black people that way."

Australian Federal Police said officers attended Sydney Airport and spoke to will.i.am and his entourage and no further action was taken.

"The AFP considers the matter finalised," the spokeswoman said.

The woman he named on Twitter.
The woman he named on Twitter.

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