Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty Kundra, who became world-famous after starring in the British TV series Big Brother in 2007, has said she wants to "move on" from an incident earlier this week in which she posted a complaint on Instagram alleging racism by Qantas Airways staff at Sydney Airport.
The rant, posted on Sunday and commented on by 3,000 of Shetty's 7 million followers, centered around a trip from Sydney to Melbourne and a check-in experience with "grumpy Mel" who "decided it was OK to speak curtly to us (brown people!!) travelling together. I was flying business and had 2 bags (my allowance) and she insisted and decided my half-empty duffel bag was oversized... So she sent us to check it in at the other counter dealing with oversized luggage...there a polite lady (yes this one was) said "this isn't an oversized bag, please check this in manually if you can at another counter."
While some have supported the star, many commenters have pointed out that rudeness is sadly common across the board at airports, and that no evidence of racism appears to have so far been produced. "Celebrity or not, you're in Australia," one said. "The caste system does not exist here. So please don't think you're high up. The way you handled this - attention seeking?"
Qantas issued a stock apology on Twitter, saying: "We're sorry that you have had a negative experience with us today Shilpa. We have passed your feedback on to the relevant team and we hope that you have a great experience with us onboard!"
In a statement quoted yesterday in the Times of India, Shetty said: "I've said my piece and that's where I want it to end. It was an unpleasant experience I encountered. I've been been an actor for far too long and garnered a lot of attention; I will not make a loose statement for publicity. It's not my style! If I made a statement it was with a lot of thought!
"The airline has apologised and am sure has done the needful. Support staff being uncourteous is not acceptable, hence I expressed my displeasure at that. Having said that I have many friends in Australia and have visited the country before where the experience was always good. I have moved on and don't like to mull over things in the past."
Shetty won the Big Brother contest in 2007 after experiencing genuine racism on the show from fellow contestants including Jade Goody. Showcasing their ignorance, the fellow housemates referred to her using derogatory and racist language, saying that they were unable to pronounce her name, called her "the Indian" and made disparaging references to her food, among other insults. The screening of these comments led to the show being suspended in 2008.