Leisha Hailey, a musician and star of 'The L-Word,' a drama about lesbians that used to air on Showtime, has accused Southwest Airlines of discriminating against her because she is gay and has called for a boycott of the airline.
Hailey and her partner, Camila Grey, were removed from a Southwest flight in El Paso, Texas, on Monday. She said via her band's Twitter feed (@UhHuhHer), that they were escorted off of the plane after getting into a discussion with a flight attendant about a kiss the two shared.
While Southwest said the couple was removed because of "excessive" behavior, the couple disputed the airline's claim in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
"We want to make it clear we were not making out or creating any kind of spectacle of ourselves, it was one, modest kiss. We are responsible adult women who walk through the world with dignity. We were simply being affectionate like any normal couple. We were on the airplane less than 5 minutes when all was said and done," they said in the statement.
The couple said they were approached by a Southwest flight attendant and became visibly upset after the she stressed to them that Southwest was a "family airline." They said no reason other than that was given. They plan to file a formal complaint with the airline.
In her Twitter feed, Hailey also said that contrary to reports, they were booked on a flight from Texas when the incident happened. ("Wow KTLA news got it wrong. We were in Baltimore? Time travel?")
A Southwest spokesperson said the incident happened aboard Flight 2274 from El Paso to Los Angeles. The passengers were removed before the flight took off.
In a statement issued Monday, Southwest said that the dispute was about the passengers' behavior, but the airline did not mention a kiss. Here's the airline's statement in full:
"Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive. Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight. We regret any circumstance where a passenger does not have a positive experience on Southwest and we are ready to work directly with the passengers involved to offer our heartfelt apologies for falling short of their expectation."
I wasn't there, so I can't say what really happened and neither can most of the folks talking about this today. (No other passengers have come forward with a description of the incident, so far as I know.)
Still, I can't imagine the embarrassment this couple must feel. Would Southwest ask a family with a fussy, noisy baby to get off a plane? Or even overly affectionate honeymooners? And while I don't approve of a lot of behavior that I see on an airplane, I get over it. It's really not that difficult to avert your eyes and cover your ears for a couple of hours.
That said, I'm guessing the reason they were removed had more to do with the couple's behavior toward the flight attendant than each other. Sounds like things may have gotten a bit heated. Still, for an airline that prides itself on being gay-friendly, the actions of this employee appear to be less than tolerant.