Looks like a bumpy week ahead for Southwest Airlines.
On Monday, actress and musician Leisha Hailey, who starred in the TV show “The L-Word,” tweeted
: “I have been discriminated against by @SouthwestAir. Flt. attendant said that it was a ‘family’ airline and kissing was not ok.”
She fired off several more tweets demanding an apology, claiming she and her girlfriend were escorted off the flight, and calling for a boycott.
The tweets sparked outrage across social media, starting with the Twitter hashtag #boycottsouthwest
. Angry customers also took to the airline’s Facebook page
with angry comments.
Roughly four hours after Hailey’s first tweet, Southwest tweeted
a link to this statement
about the incident:
“Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive. Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight. We regret any circumstance where a passenger does not have a positive experience on Southwest and we are ready to work directly with the passengers involved to offer our heartfelt apologies for falling short of their expectations.”
It appears the airline’s front office learned of the incident from a tweet. Roughly three hours before it issued the statement, Southwest’s Twitter account responded
to a tweet about the boycott: “@UhHuhHerMusic I'm so sorry! Can you please follow/DM me more details so we can get to the bottom of this? Thanks!”
Blogs have pointed out the irony in Hailey’s removal, because the airline has community partnerships with a verity of local and national organizations dedicated to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) causes.
“We take pride in our outreach and commitment to the GLBT community,” the airline says on its website
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) told Gawker
that it had “contacted Southwest to call for additional actions beyond tonight's statement that ensure all customers feel comfortable and welcomed while traveling.”
Southwest is no stranger to firestorms sparked by passengers being reprimanded or removed from flights. In 2007, a Southwest flight attendant asked a young woman to adjust her clothing
because her miniskirt was too revealing. That incident caused a media mini-circus, and Southwest apologized
and offered the woman two free round-trip tickets. The airline also used the incident to offer a “skimpy” sale
on airfare. In 2010, Southwest apologized to director Kevin Smith
for removing him from a standby flight because he was too big for his seat. Similar to the current incident with Hailey, Smith made the incident public through a series of tweets.
In June of this year, Southwest suspended a pilot for making misogynistic and homophobic statements
over an open radio channel that other pilots could hear. The pilot underwent diversity training before being reinstated.
Hailey issued a statement
, in which she says she is filing a complaint with the airline.
"In no way were our actions on Southwest Airlines excessive, inappropriate or vulgar. We want to make it clear we were not making out or creating
any kind of spectacle of ourselves, it was one, modest kiss. We are responsible adult women who walk through the world with dignity. We were
simply being affectionate like any normal couple. We were on the airplane less than 5 minutes when all was said and done. We take full
responsibility for getting verbally upset with the flight attendant after being told it was a 'family airline.'”