A gay man and his companion were asked to move from their seats on an Alaska Airlines flight so that a straight couple could sit together. They instead chose to leave the flight altogether.
David Cooley, anowner of L.A. gay mainstay The Abbey, was heading home from New York on Sunday, and the two were already seated in their premium seats when a flight attendant approached them and told them that one of them would have to move or take a different flight.
“I have never been so discriminated against while traveling before,” Cooley wrote on Facebook. “I was removed from an Alaska Airlines flight #1407 from John F. Kennedy International Airport to LAX to give preferential treatment to a straight couple. After my traveling companion and I had been seated in our assigned seats for a while, we were approached by the flight attendant and my companion was asked to move from his premium seat to coach, so a couple could sit together. I explained that we were a couple and wanted to sit together. He was given a choice to either give up the premium seat and move to coach or get off the plane. We could not bear the feeling of humiliation for an entire cross-country flight and left the plane.”
I have never been so discriminated against while traveling before. I was removed from an Alaska Airlines flight # 1407…
Cooley says he and his companion switched to a Delta flight to get home, and is calling for a boycott of Alaska Airlines: “If you are an #LGBT person, please spend your travel dollars with an LGBT-friendly airline like Delta.”
A spokesperson for Alaska Airlines confirmed the incident, saying Cooley and his partner were “mistakenly assigned” the same seats as another (straight) couple. “We are deeply sorry for the situation,” says the airline’s statement, “and are investigating the details while communicating directly with the guests involved to try and make this right.”
This isn’t the first time a same-sex couple has been made to move to accommodate heterosexuals: In 2015 a lesbian couple boarding a Qantas flight with their daughter was asked to change seats so a married straight couple in their 50s could sit together.
“[My partner] was advised that Qantas had made the decision to move her seat to another row so that a married couple could be seated together,” Kristina Antoniades posted on Facebook. “They did not acknowledge that we were [also] a family and wanted to sit together.”
They refused, and were issued their original boarding passes. But flight attendants on the flight, from Brisbane to Melbourne, again asked them why they weren’t willing to be accommodating.
“We produced [our boarding passes] and again she asked why we were not allowing the married couple to be seated together. I again told her that Merrin was my partner and Lily our daughter.”
After the incident went viral, Qantas apologized and issued Antoniades and her family free travel vouchers.