Naomi Campbell: British Airways called me golliwog
Published 23/06/2008 | 09:11
Naomi Campbell accused British Airways of racism just hours after pleading guilty to charges of assaulting a police officer following an "air rage" incident at Heathrow airport.
The 38-year-old supermodel claimed that staff on a BA aircraft had referred to her as a "golliwog supermodel" during a row over lost luggage in the chaos at the opening of Heathrow's Terminal 5 in April.
Ms Campbell's comments were made during a television interview hours after Friday's court case. They will have dismayed BA executives, who are still reeling from allegations reported in The Independent in April that casual racism was rife among staff.
Campbell, infamous for her temper tantrums – she has confessed to assault in courtrooms in New York, Toronto and London – admitted she had been wrong to kick out at police.
But she was unrepentant about swearing at BA staff: "I was called a racial name on that flight and that was part of my reaction," she said. "Nothing to do with the police, but yes, from British Airways. I was called a 'golliwog supermodel'. I don't really think that's fair. Do you?"
In April, a senior BA pilot told The Independent that casual use of racial epithets among the airline's staff was so common it was considered normal.
Captain Doug Maughan, who has 28 years' flying experience, said he lodged a complaint after the word "coon" was used during a training session. He also alleged that on a flight to Los Angeles with a large number of Saudi Arabians on board "the captain suddenly embarked on an extraordinary rant about rag-heads".
He said the racism was "generational" and more common among older pilots, but also that his complaints to senior management at the airline, which transports 38 million passengers a year, were ignored.
Campbell was speaking after having been sentenced to 200 hours of community service and fined £2,300 after she admitted two counts of assaulting a police officer and one charge of disorderly conduct. She claimed that she too had been subject to racism by employees of the airline.
The maximum sentence for assaulting an officer is a six-month jail sentence. The court heard that she screamed and swore at the captain of a BA flight waiting to take off for Los Angeles after one of her bags went missing during the chaos at Terminal 5.
She told the captain he could not leave until her bag was found, and when he walked away shouted after him: "You are racist. You would not be doing this if I was white."
When police officers arrived to remove her from the plane she lashed out with her leg – she was wearing "formidable platform boots with stiletto-style heels", the court heard – and accused them of targeting her because she is black.
"You are all racists. I am going to sue you," she said.
Despite admitting she took it "too far", Campbell yesterday pointedly refused to apologise to BA, which has now banned the model from flying on its aircraft.
"As for British Airways, I don't apologise," she said. "I just think they are disgusting, because there are people still waiting for their luggage.
"I have travelled with British Airways for many years and I just think they have been harsh."
BA categorically denied Campbell's allegations. It said: "BA does not accept any allegations of racism. We are proud of our diversity. We fly to 90 different countries around the world and employ a multi-nationality workforce. We have strict policies concerning dignity at work and have long-standing training programmes on diver-sity and inclusion."