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It didn’t need to be like this

Commentary: Politically Aware

Dear Ms. Hailey:

We at Southwest Airlines are committed to providing a satisfying flight experience for all of our customers. We deeply regret that members of our team were insensitive to you and your companion. We deeply regret the incident, will refund the cost of your ticket and will try to improve on our strong corporate commitment to diversity and equality. In the hopes that you will fly with us again, we have enclosed two open tickets for anywhere in the continental U.S.


Southwest Airlines

That’s all you needed to say, Southwest; and this would probably be over. But noooooooo, you had to quasi-defend yourself, and now it has to be a thing. That’s too bad, because I have enjoyed your airline.

You issued a statement that reads like it was drafted by the same person who writes the take-off-and-landing monologues that George Carlin so comically dissected. As an homage, I will take it one phrase at a time. For the full statement intact, visit LGBTWeekly.com

“Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints …” Why are there initial reports? One specific flight attendant, whom Ms. Hailey could probably help you identify, approached her. Why don’t you call him or her and find out how many people complained? “Several” could be 20, or it could be a euphemism for a relatively small number, used as a way of making two homophobes sound like a plane-full of annoyed passengers.

“Characterizing the behavior as excessive.” Who cares how the behavior was characterized? I characterize going to the bathroom three times in a 90 minute flight as excessive, but you don’t stop those folks!

Ms. Hailey is on record saying that the kiss in question was an innocent one. If you disagree, tell us what they did, specifically, that was beyond the pale in terms of what’s an acceptable smooch and what’s not.

“Our crew …” – Duh.

“Responsible for the comfort of all customers on board …” An honorable charge. In this case, though, it appears they put the comfort of some passengers above that of Ms. Hailey and her companion. They seem to have been comfortable until they were interrupted.

“Approached the passengers based solely on behavior …” Actually, just a sentence ago, you admitted this was about the characterization of the behavior, not the behavior itself, which you refuse to describe.

“And not gender.” I’ll give you that it wasn’t about gender, because there are no reports that you threw all the women off the plane. It doesn’t, however, preclude the possibility that you treated same-sex and opposite sex couples differently.

“The conversation escalated …” I have no doubt it did. People being discriminated against tend to raise a fuss. But it might not have happened at all if the “comfort of all customers on board” had been considered.

“To a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in-flight.” False dichotomy. It could have been resolved in the plane, before it took flight. Once things were going bad, an apology might have calmed the situation enough for everyone to take their seats and take off together. Or, the “several” could have been told that women kissing was acceptable, and they could have been left “on the ground” if they had further issues.

Let’s face it. We may not have been on the plane; but we’ve been “there,” and we know what happened. Someone didn’t like lesbians kissing.

Southwest had many opportunities to fix this. Your crew could have told the “several” that the heart in the Southwest logo covered any two people expressing affection, or asked all couples to avoid public displays of affection. Or you could have issued the apology above.

Instead, you issued a statement, and a revision that put you in the doghouse with the LGBT community. To get out, you’ll have to do more than check my bags for free. You’ll need to convince me Southwest and its crews are leaving their personal baggage on the tarmac.

Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=15714

Posted by on Oct 6, 2011. Filed under Politically Aware. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Comments for “It didn’t need to be like this”

  1. This seeming ‘discomfort’ with LGBT folks shows his far we still need to go as a society in order to get to full acceptance in our society. In civil rights law, we can say that this couple was discriminated against in public accommodations. This is the type of discrimination that African Americans experienced at lunch counters and in buses in the 1950’s. Its what interracial couples experienced. It is so much more basic than employment discrimination, and its wrong. I flew Southwest several times last week after this story broke. I so wanted to ask the friendly, and often gay, employees of the LUV airline about this, but never found a likely suspect. I hope one of our national LGBT organizations has engaged, and engaged hard and tough, with Southwest about this ugly incident.

  2. I think your zshould send this to the head of HR or PR at Southwest and make sure it’s read by somebody who can do something about it.

    This onesgreat, but the one on polling (next week) did make me feel like I was reading about the fine points of string theory — mybe cuz I live 3,000 miles away.

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