A Milwaukee man was the center of another airplane altercation last week in Atlanta after a bathroom break got him kicked off his flight.
The entire aircraft was emptied and all passengers, except Kima Hamilton, were allowed to re-board. He was left to find another way home.
"It all escalated so fast," Hamilton said.
Hamilton was kicked off the flight after using the bathroom while the plane was stalled on the tarmac.
Hamilton is an art teacher at Craig Montessori, and volunteers with local kids and teens. He says he just wanted to get back to Milwaukee in time for a school field trip. He never imagined that using the airplane's bathroom—while they were delayed on the tarmac waiting to take off—would cause him to get kicked off.
"We were stopped for probably about a half hour," Hamilton said. "The plane wasn't moving, but you know my bladder was. I've gotten questions of why I didn't pee before I got on the plane. I fly a lot. I've never had this problem. I would never want to be in the situation I was in. If I didn't have to really go, I wouldn't have."
Michael Rosalino was sitting across the aisle from Hamilton.
"The first time I saw Mr. Hamilton, was when he started playing peekaboo with my young daughter, and I just got a good feeling about him," Rosalino said. "We talked a bit. And I started to notice, that it seemed like he was being singled out for some reason."
"When I got up to go to the bathroom, I basically pleaded with the stewardess, asking if I could use the bathroom quickly," Hamilton said. "She said because we were waiting for take off, she'd have to inform the pilot, and I'd lose my spot in line. So I just returned to my seat, not wanting to be a problem. But then we just sat there waiting for more time, so I got up again and used the bathroom. When I got back to my seat, there was an announcement that someone would have to be taken off the plane."
"I thought it was a medical emergency," Rosalino said. "But then Mr. Hamilton told me he thought the might be talking about him. I told him that can't be the case."
But then, two different employees came to talk to Hamilton, and asked him to come with them off the plane. Rosalino started recording the interaction.
"Mr. Hamilton was never confrontational," he said. "He was very polite. He only asked for clarification throughout."
Soon, the pilot announced they had to return to the gate, and that every passenger had to get off the plane.
"So basically, we were all inconvenienced hours because of a 30 second bathroom trip," Rosalino said. "The whole thing was uncalled for."
TSA and FBI agents were waiting to talk to Hamilton.
"In that environment I'm at their mercy," Hamilton said. "I'm a paying customer, but I have no say. Being in the body I'm in, as a black man, I'm already so aware of people and situations around me. I knew something weird was happening. The blessing in that moment is that there were other people there who were able to see it, and call it for what it was."
Rosalino, an attorney in Milwaukee, stayed by Hamilton's side for as long as he could.
"I just told him to keep cool, and that everything's going to be okay," Rosalino says. "He was handling it perfectly. He didn't need my help. But I wanted to show some support."
"It was good to have him there," Hamilton says. "I think some of that intimidation in the moment subsided with just having an ally."
Rosalino and the rest of the flight was able to reboard. Delta grounded Hamilton in Atlanta, and refunded him half the price of his flight. They didn't get his luggage off the plane, and he had to pay triple to get another flight home via Southwest Airlines.
"I think we would all admit that no other industry could get away with this type of behavior," Rosalino said.
Delta sent TODAY’S TMJ4 this statement:
Our flight crews are extensively trained to ensure the safety and security of all customers. It is imperative that passengers comply with crew instructions during all phases of flight, especially at critical points of takeoff and landing.
Hamilton says he's hoping to still have a conversation with Delta about what happened, how he feels he was unfairly targeted, and what the company can do to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again.
"I would like to know that Delta is working on improving these interactions, as they relate to micro-aggression and cultural competency," Hamilton said. "Because there was an energy between the stewardess and I. For as non-threatening as I was trying to be, there was something about my aesthetic that registered different for her. And once that happened, I had no control. A conversation needs to be had on this, that would be the healthiest for all involved."