Black doctor says Delta staff refused to believe she was a doctor during mid-flight crisis

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HOUSTON — A black doctor from Houston says Delta Airlines flight attendants refused to believe she was a certified physician during a mid-flight emergency when a passenger became unresponsive.

Dr. Tamika Cross’ Facebook post has since gone viral, and Delta officials released a statement saying the airline has launched a full investigation into the claim, adding that “discrimination of any kind is never acceptable,” according to KIAH.

“I’m sure many of my fellow young, corporate America working women of color can all understand my frustration when I say I’m sick of being disrespected,” Cross wrote.

Cross, an OBGYN at UT Health in Houston, said she was sitting on Delta flight DL945 when a woman seated two rows in front of her started panicking because her husband was unresponsive.

“I naturally jumped into Doctor mode as no one else was getting up,” Cross’ post described. “Unbuckle my seat belt and throw my tray table up and as I’m about to stand up, flight attendant says ‘everyone stay calm, it’s just a night terror, he is alright.'”

According to Cross, it was a matter of minutes before the man was unresponsive again, and the attendants started asking passengers if there were any physicians on board.

“I raised my hand to grab her attention. She said to me ‘Oh, no sweetie put your hand down, we are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don’t have time to talk to you,'” Cross continued in the post.

Cross said she tried to tell the attendant she was a physician, but was repeatedly interrupted with condescending remarks. When the crew asked if a physician on board could press their attendant call button, Cross said she went to press it and was bombarded with with questions as the ill passenger laid in his seat still unresponsive.

“She said, ‘Oh wow. You’re an actual physician?’ I reply, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘let me see your credentials. What type of doctor are you? Where do you work? Why were you in Detroit?'”

Cross said she respond, “OBGYN. Work in Houston. In Detroit for a wedding, but believe it or not they do have doctors in Detroit. Now excuse me so I can help the man in need.”

Cross said an older white gentleman approached her and the attendant claiming he was also a doctor.

“[The attendant] says to me, ‘thanks for your help, but he can help us, and he has his credentials,'” Cross said. “Mind you, he hasn’t shown anything to her. Just showed up and fit the ‘description of a doctor.’ I stayed seated. Mind blown. Blood boiling.”

The attendant returned 10 minutes later and asked Cross for her medical expertise and apologized to her several times, Cross said. Cross said she even offered her flight miles, which she refused.

“I don’t want skymiles in exchange for blatant discrimination. Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it’s not right. She will not get away with this,” Cross said.

Read Delta’s full statement about the incident below:

Delta continues to investigate a story surfaced by Dr. Tamika Cross in a recent post on Facebook.

We are troubled by any accusations of discrimination and take them very seriously. The experience Dr. Cross has described is not reflective of Delta’s culture or of the values our employees live out every day. We are in the process of conducting a full investigation. We’ve reached out to Dr. Cross to speak with her directly, talked with our crew members and we’re reaching out to customers who were on board to gather as much information as we can.

While there is much we can’t share because our investigation involves confidential personnel matters, we do want to share what we can.

Three medical professionals identified themselves on the flight in question. Only one was able to produce documentation of medical training and that is the doctor who was asked to assist the customer onboard. In addition, paramedics met the flight to assist the customer further.

Flight attendants are trained to collect information from medical volunteers offering to assist with an onboard medical emergency. When an individual’s medical identification isn’t available, they’re instructed to ask questions such as where medical training was received or whether an individual has a business card or other documentation and ultimately to use their best judgment.

Delta’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and respect of all of our customers worldwide is rooted deeply in our company’s values and culture. As a global carrier with a diverse workforce, serving a diverse customer base, we are committed to treating all passengers with kindness and respect.


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