Alaska Airlines has apologized to a gay couple after flight crew demanded they sit separately so a straight couple could sit together.
The airlines told Global News in an email that the incident was “unfortunate,” but nothing more than a “seating error” that does not reflect the views of the company.
Los Angeles restaurant owner David Cooley wrote about the incident in a Facebook post Sunday. Cooley said he and his partner were already seated in the first class section when a flight attendant asked his partner, who was not named, to move so another couple could sit together.
“I explained that we were a couple and wanted to sit together,” the post read. “He was given a choice to either give up the premium seat and move to coach or get off the plane.”
Cooley said they felt “humiliation” and both chose to leave the plane instead of separating.
“I cannot believe that an airline in this day and age would give a straight couple preferential treatment over a gay couple and go so far as to ask us to leave,” the post read.
Cooley and his partner eventually took a Delta Air Lines flight back to L.A. from New York.
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The company received backlash online after Cooley’s post went viral, with many people saying they would boycott the company for not being LGBTQ+ friendly.
“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,” a statement from the company read.
“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.”
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In an interview with CBS News, a company spokesperson said they had mistakenly booked two people for the same seat.
The company has not explained why Cooley’s partner was told to move over the other individual. Federal rules in the U.S. leave decisions over bumping and moving passengers to the airlines’ discretion. It has, however, led to complaints and lawsuits in the past.
In Canada, Transportation Minister Marc Garneau is in the process of creating a passenger bill of rights, which will create more regulations for such issues.
Garneau said in May that the bill is meant to have more oversight about how airlines treat passengers.
“When Canadians buy an airline ticket, it has to mean something,” Garneau said. “We are going to make sure airlines treat passengers with the respect they deserve.”
Alaska Airlines added in the statement that it reached out to Cooley to apologize and are “seeking to make it right.”
The airline reiterated its stance on diversity and inclusion.
“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.”
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.