The story of David Cooley, the partner of a gay man who was asked by an Alaska Airlines employee to either move from his assigned premium plane seat so a straight couple could sit together or else be removed from the flight, quickly went viral, prompting the airline to go on apology overdrive.
Cooley posted on Facebook and Twitter that he and his partner eventually left the flight as they “could not bear the feeling of humiliation”. At the time, Alaska Airlines replied with a post saying “We are truly sorry this event occurred. We mistakenly booked two people in one seat. I can assure you we are an inclusive airline and hold a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind in our workplace.”
.@AlaskaAir I have never been so discriminated against while traveling before. I was removed from an Alaska Airlines flight # 1407 from John F. Kennedy Airport to LAX to give preferential treatment to a straight couple. #LGBTQ #AlaskaAir #JFK #discrimination pic.twitter.com/Os9JWM4aQt
— David Cooley (@DavidCooleyLA) July 29, 2018
Many felt that the apology was insufficient as it failed to say why preference was given to the straight couple who had yet to board and not to the gay couple who had been sitting in the assigned seats for some time.
The continued heavy backlash forced the airline to release a much more in depth apology. “This unfortunate incident was caused by a seating mix-up on a full flight. It’s our policy to keep all families seated together whenever possible. That didn’t happen here. We are deeply sorry for the situation and did not intend to make Mr Cooley and his partner feel uncomfortable in any way.
“We’ve reached out to Mr Cooley to offer our sincere apologies for what happened, refund his ticket and make this right. Alaska Airlines has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind. All of us at Alaska value inclusion for our guests and each other. Full LGBTQ equality is part of the fabric of Alaska Airlines.”
An unfortunate seating mix-up occurred this weekend. Full LGBTQ equality is a value we share. pic.twitter.com/uyaM1dsXmv
— Alaska Airlines (@AlaskaAir) July 31, 2018
The apology has since been accepted by Cooley and his partner, with Cooley tweeting, “Thank you to everyone for all the support. Alaska Airlines has reached out, apologized, and we are discussing making things right. I accept Alaska’s apology and appreciate it addressing the situation.”
Whether this will convince those who reacted so strongly to the story that the airline’s apology is genuine and they are indeed an LGBT+ friendly way to travel remains to be seen.
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