Seattle, Washington, (KINY) Alaska Airlines is being criticized on social media after crews forced a gay couple to give up their seats for a straight one.
The Seattle Times said the incident occurred on a flight from New York City to Los Angeles. The airline immediately apologized and explained it was a seating mistake and not reflective of any disrespect.
David Cooley said he and his companion were in their assigned seats when a gate agent asked his companion to give up his seat and move so another couple could sit together. Cooley told the agent the two men were a couple and wanted to sit together.
The agent insisted that the companion move or get off the plane.
Henry Harteveldt, an airline analyst with Atmosphere Research Group, said previously Alaska Airlines had a reputation as a gay-friendly airline with strong support for employees and travelers in the LGBT community.
Cooley wrote on Facebook posts that they could not bear the humiliation on the cross country flight and left the plane. “I have never been so discriminated against while traveling. 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.”
Alaska responded by posting an apology on social media that said “this unfortunate incident was caused by a seating mix-up on a full flight.”
Alaska spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said the incident was “a human mistake” made by a gate agent who didn’t have full information and was merely trying to move people around so a family could sit together.
Egan pointed out that Alaska Air Chief Executive Brad Tilden has prominently and publicly championed marriage equality and, as a Boy Scout leader, the acceptance of gay Scouts in the organization.
Cooley said Alaska Airlines contacted him directly and worked out the situation. “Alaska Airlines has reached out, apologized, and we are discussing making things right. I accept Alaska Airlines apology and appreciate it addressing the situation.”