A gay man has accused Alaska Airlines of giving a straight couple “preferential treatment” during a Sunday flight from New York to Los Angeles.
David Cooley, the founder of famous LA gay bar the Abbey, published a post on Facebook on Sunday afternoon saying an Alaska Airlines flight attendant asked his partner to move so a straight couple could sit together. According to Cooley, he and his partner were sitting in premium seats and the flight attendant asked his partner to give up his seat and sit in coach.
Cooley said he explained to the flight attendant that his travel companion was his romantic partner and that they would like to sit together.
“He was given a choice to either give up the premium seat and move to coach or get off the plane,” Cooley wrote of his partner. “We could not bear the feeling of humiliation for an entire cross-country flight and left the plane.”
Cooley wrote that he and his partner found another flight to LA on Delta Airlines.
“I cannot believe that an airline in this day and age would give a straight couple preferential treatment over a gay couple and go so far as to ask us to leave,” he added.
As of Tuesday morning, Cooley’s post had amassed over 3,500 reactions and 1,500 shares.
Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Oriana Branon provided a statement to HuffPost, calling the episode nothing more than a “seating error.”
“This unfortunate incident was caused by a seating error, compounded by a full flight and a crew seeking an on-time departure and nothing more than that. It’s our policy to keep all families seated together whenever possible; that didn’t happen here and we are deeply sorry for the situation,” she said. “We’ve reached out to Mr. Cooley to offer our sincere apologies for what happened and we are seeking to make it right.”
She added that the airline has a “zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind.”
“Diversity and inclusion are part of the fabric of Alaska Airlines,” Branon said. “We are an airline for everyone and reflect these values through our work with dozens of nonprofit LGBTQ organizations, Pride Parades along the West Coast and a perfect score in the HRC’s Equality Index. We’ll keep building on this commitment, with our employee-led LGBTQ business resource group.”
Interestingly, Alaska Airlines has a page dedicated to gay travel on its website.
“At Alaska, we are longtime supporters of the LGBT community and remain committed to a more equitable society,” the page reads.