Alaska Airlines, which faced enormous backlash for forcing a gay couple to separate so a straight couple could sit together on a recent cross-country flight, is looking to redeem itself.
“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," the airline wrote in an apology sent to Towleroad. "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."
It wasn't just any gay couple in the incident; David Cooley, owner of the iconic West Hollywood gay nightclub the Abbey, wrote on Facebook about what he and his partner experienced.
“I have never been so discriminated against while traveling before. 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," Cooley wrote. "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. "
After Cooley explained to the flight staff that they were a couple, things escalated.
"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," he posted.
Alaska Airlines released a statement acknowledging the incident, which it says was a result of two couples being mistakenly assigned to the same seats, and saying it has zero tolerance for discrimination. However, it seems the public response has been so strong that it needed to issue a longer apology.
"We’ve reached out to Mr. Cooley to offer our sincere apologies for what happened and we are seeking to make it right," the statement reads. "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. Diversity and inclusion are part of the fabric of Alaska Airlines. 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.”
David has accepted the apology over Twitter.
Thank you to everyone for all the support. @AlaskaAir has reached out, apologized, and we are discussing making things right. I accept Alaska’s apology and appreciate it addressing the situation.
— David Cooley (@DavidCooleyLA) July 31, 2018