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Alaska Airlines issues a larger statement over seat change

Alaska Airlines doubles-down on its apology to gay couple.
Photo credit:
pxhere

It seems Alaska Airlines is trying to make things right after one of its passengers went viral with a story in which he claimed he was discriminated against. The carrier sent out a statement yesterday then followed up with another one this morning. 

It happened on Sunday when David Cooley, owner of The Abbey in West Hollywood, was traveling with his partner in Premium Class. Even though they had paid for both seats, Cooley claims that a flight attendant approached them and demanded that they move to coach to accommodate a straight couple. He says the attendant gave him the option to do that or deplane. 

Opting for the latter, Cooley then posted his experience to social media: 

"I have never been so discriminated against while traveling before," he said in part. "I was removed from an Alaska Airlines flight # 1407 from John F. Kennedy International Airport to LAX to give preferential treatment to a straight couple." He adds, “I explained that we were a couple and wanted to sit together."

Probably having been tagged hundreds of times, Alaska Airlines sent out an apology statement yesterday saying they would investigate the matter to "make it right."

Today the airline issued a larger apology, this time emphasizing how committed they are to the LGBT community: 

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. 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.

We’ve reached out to Mr. Cooley to offer our sincere apologies for what happened and we are seeking to make it right. 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. Diversity and inclusion are part of the fabric of Alaska Airlines.

We are an airline for everyone and reflect these values through our work with dozens of nonprofit LGBTQ organizations, Pride Parades along the West Coast and a perfect score in the HRC’s Equality Index. We’ll keep building on this commitment, with our employee-led LGBTQ business resource group.

Many on social media were surprised to hear about the incident, saying based on their experiences they thought Alaska Airlines was extremely LGBT friendly and that overbooking seats is a common practice with air travel. Some defended the airline saying the incident had nothing to do with being gay or straight. 

Umaniak Tweeted: "This is not about lgbtq issue. Not every bad customer service issue has to be cycled through a race/gender/sexuality bias filter. This just sounds like crummy Customer service by Alaskan airline and Alaskan airlines SHOULD be made to answer for lousy customer service."

But others weren't so forgiving and blasted the company, "I disagree," wrote Elizabeth Cook in response, "They were seated and were asked to give up one seat so a couple could sit together. When they explained that they were a couple also they were told to move or leave. The airline refused to recognize the ones already seated as a couple."