Two friends said they experienced the “most blatantly racist thing” that had ever happened to them when they were on a May 2 American Airlines flight. Rane Baldwin, an African American woman, was flying with friend Janet Novack, a white woman, from Kentucky to North Carolina. Baldwin, who was an AAdvantage Platinum Select/World Elite member, said she upgraded both her and Novack’s tickets to sit in first class.

Baldwin, however, said upon boarding she was told there were no more available seats in first class and said she was put on the back of the plane despite her ticket and her membership status. Novack, on the other hand, was directed to first class.

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“I’ve never felt so unimportant in my entire life,” Baldwin told The Root May 9.

Baldwin said she attempted to ask questions about the seat switch and complained to members of the crew to no avail. Novack said the way the two friends were treated by flight staff was vastly different.

“As [Baldwin] asked questions, she was ignored. However, when I asked the same questions, I received thorough answers,” Novack wrote on Twitter the same day as the incident.

“They literally made her wait at the back of the plane and refused to make eye contact with or speak with her,” Novack said.

And the friends said that though Baldwin was moved to the back of the plane, there were plenty of empty seats in the front half of the plane. Baldwin ignored the flight staff’s placement and moved to the front of the plane where she was joined by Novack, who gave up her first class ticket.

“The whole reason that I was flying first class was because I was associated with her and her reservation,” Novack tweeted. “They were ignoring the cardholder.”

Novack said the staff’s behavior was “prejudiced” and “ignorant.” She also said that the woman at the kiosk was “confused by our tickets and kept insinuating that we weren't flying together.” The employee asked for a receipt for their bags, “assuming that we were lying about having an AA credit card for free checked bags,” she said.

“It was baffling and hurtful that the crew seemed completely aware of what they were doing and just didn’t care. People didn’t seem to trust me and made giant, incorrect assumptions about the relationship between my friend and me,” said Baldwin, according to The Independent. “I’m the one who bought the tickets; she was traveling with me – not the other way around. When my ticket was changed and Janet’s was not, I felt like I was being sent to the back of the bus. I just kept wondering if I was in some sort of time warp and asking myself, ‘Is this what it felt like to be black 60 years ago?’”

“We don't tolerate discrimination of any kind,” American Airlines said on Twitter in response to one of Novack's posts. The airline was adamant that no discrimination had taken place on the flight.

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“We have reviewed the allegations, and no discrimination occurred,” a spokesperson for American Airlines told International Business Times. “After a flight was canceled, an agent inadvertently provided two first class seats to Ms. Baldwin and Ms. Novack. The passengers were not ticketed for the first class cabin, and a formal upgrade was not processed. (i.e. they were never charged/miles were not deducted.) The next day, the agent working the flight realized the error, since we were short one seat in the first class cabin. Instead of removing both passengers from first class, we permitted the passenger who was “upgraded” in error first, to remain in the first class cabin as a gesture of goodwill. Ms. Novack was the passenger who was upgraded in error first. ”

“We have apologized to both passengers for the confusion, and explained how the issue occurred – which was an error on our part," the spokersperson said.

American Airlines also came under fire in April after video surfaced of a distraught mother on a flight from San Francisco to Dallas. The mother said her baby was almost hit with a double-wide stroller that a male flight attendant had “violently” grabbed. The airline subsequently launched an investigation into the incident and suspended the flight attendant.

“What we see on this video does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers,” the airline said in a statement. “We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected by the incident. The actions of our team member captured here do not appear to reflect patience or empathy, two values necessary for customer care. In short, we are disappointed by these actions. The American team member has been removed from duty while we immediately investigate this incident.”

GettyImages-187784209 An American Airlines plane takes off from Miami International Airport in Florida, Nov. 12, 2013. Photo: Getty Images