A gay couple say they and their children were denied family boarding privileges on a Southwest Airlines flight from Buffalo, N.Y., to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The incident, which took place Saturday, was an act of discrimination, one member of the couple, Grant Morse, told HuffPost. He and his husband were traveling with their three children and his husband’s mother.
“We approached the ... ‘family boarding area’ as we have done many times,” Morse told HuffPost. “The boarding agent assertively approached and said, ‘This is family boarding.’ My husband responded, ‘We know, we are a family.’ She said, ‘Not all can go. This is family boarding.’”
Morse said he and the family have used family boarding many times with no problem, and that an opposite-sex couple and their toddler boarded together after Morse’s family was denied.
A Southwest spokesperson said the family boarding rule allows one parent to board with children, but members of the flight crew usually go ahead and let both parents board. The spokesperson said the problem with Morse’s group was that his mother-in-law, who is 83, needs extra help and was therefore not eligible for family boarding.
“Our Operations Agent informed two parents that another member of their group was ineligible to board under Family Boarding and asked that she board in her assigned boarding group,” said a statement released by Southwest. “This conversation in the boarding area had nothing to do with discrimination, we welcomed both parents to board the aircraft with their children. The parents expressed disappointment that the Family Boarding policy was not applicable to another member of their group. The two parents did not agree with our policy, and our Flight Crew worked to save seats together on the aircraft for the family as the conversation continued in the gate area.”
But Morse said that only one of the men was allowed to board with the children, and he and his husband ended up sitting separately — one of them sat with two of the children and the other with one child. And his mother-in-law sat by herself.
“Never once did they say, ‘You two fathers and you three kids can board, and grandma has to wait over there,’” Morse told HuffPost. “I feel all they’re doing is trying to cover up discrimination right now.” He is considering a lawsuit, and if he wins any damages, he will donate them to a charity that fights discrimination, he said.