A bizarre and seemingly racist “service fee” that was tacked on to one Black customer’s American Airline charge has people asking what exactly is going on.
Kyetra Bryant posted a screenshot to Facebook showing that she had been charged something labeled “African American African Servi” according to her bank statement. The purchase was linked to “American Charlotte NC” and matches the baggage fee she paid at Charlotte Douglas International Airport to fly on American Airlines. Her traveling companion supposedly incurred the same charge on his card.
“I said hmmm, ‘African American, African service charge,’” she told Fox46. “It was just on my cell phone because I was looking at my banking app. I’m like ‘what is this?’”
Bryant says she contacted American Airlines in an attempt to understand why her baggage fee had been labeled that way, but received no plausible explanation. The airline blamed the bank, the bank blamed the airline, and nothing added up.
“The bank told American directly, we don’t have anything to do with that. When you put something into your system, we charge it as the merchant charges it, and that’s it,” she said.
And American told Fox46 that Mastercard ultimately admitted that the fee was submitted by a self-service kiosk at the airport correctly and that “Mastercard is conducting its own investigation,” although that doesn’t seem to line up with what Bryant herself has been told over the last several months of trying to get to the bottom of this oddity.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense that a bank would turn around and change a baggage fee in their system to be labeled as an “African American African” service charge, but people on social media were quick to point out that there’s another possibility regarding what happened in this scenario.
It’s easy to “nickname” purchases for many banks, and view that new label or description online. Pointing to the fact that the screenshot says the charge actually appears on the statement as “Debit Card Purchase – American Charlotte NC,” some folks are suggesting the “African American African Servi” label was added after the fact on the user end, by Bryant.
For her part, Bryant insists that this was “an instance of racial bias” and continues to investigate what happened.