Janet Jackson’s bassist accuses Qantas of racism amid will.i.am row

Another allegation has hit the Australian airline

Janet Jackson’s bassist, Eric Smith, has become the latest individual to accuse Qantas airlines of racism, following similar claims from will.i.am last week.

Eric Smith claimed he experienced issues when he tried to board a flight from Brisbane to Sydney with his bass. Smith was due to perform at RNB Fridays Live with Jackson and will.i.am and claimed he was asked to check his guitar in, despite witnessing other passengers not being asked to do the same.

Smith, who has also played bass for Justin Timberlake and Rihanna, further claims he was also forced to sign a waiver document stating that the airline would not be responsible for damages to his bass. Smith alleges that he witnessed several white passengers bearing the plane with instruments without issue.


Speaking to Jase & PJ on Melbourne’s KIIS 101.1, Smith said: “I’m sitting at the gate area and the guy comes to me with a piece of paper said, ‘I need you to sign this and I need you to give me your guitar.’

“I was like, ‘for what reason?’ and he said, ‘well it’s a waiver for damages because we need to stick your guitar under the plane and we’re not responsible for damages.’

janet jackson glastonbury 2019 pyramid stage
Janet Jackson performs at the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2019

Later on, Smith shared a photo on Twitter of a guitar case on the plane in the overhead cabins to illustrate his claim. The tweet has since been deleted.

He added: “I wasn’t trying to be that guy. I wasn’t like, ‘let me speak to your supervisor, what’s your name?’ I never went there with the guy. I was just like, ‘sir, I’m just trying to work.'”

On Twitter, Smith elaborated the details of the incident further saying: “I was confronted with attitude. Sitting at the gate minding my own business. All of these WHITE guitars boarding the plane, but you tell me that I have to check mine. Not happening, & you want me to sign a waiver saying that they’re not responsible for damages. Wack.”


Qantas have since issued a statement about the incident to Daily Mail Australia. It read: “When musicians bring oversize instruments onboard like guitars, our crew are required to ensure that this has been pre-arranged.

“So there’s nothing out of the ordinary about our crew checking that this has been done. We have not received a formal complaint from Mr Smith about this flight.”

will.i.am wearing hat Black Eyed Peas
will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas Credit: Getty

Last week, will.i.am took to social media to call out a “racist flight attendant” who he says reported him to the police for having his laptop out after she made an announcement asking passengers to put them away.

The Black Eyed Peas frontman says he was met by police at Sydney Airport yesterday (November 16) after an incident on a Qantas flight with an “overly aggressive flight attendant” who he says was upset with him because he couldn’t hear her through his noise-cancelling headphones.

“I’m currently on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney. I’m sorry to say me and my group have experienced they worse service due to a overly aggressive flight attendant,” he tweeted. “I don’t want to believe she racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour.”

Responding to the incident, Qantas Airlines said in a statement (via Hollywood Reporter): “There was a misunderstanding on board, which seems to have been exacerbated by will.i.am wearing noise cancelling headphones and not being able to hear instructions from crew. We’ll be following up with will.i.am and wish him well for the rest of the tour.”