Metro Weekly

Gay couple claims Alaska Airlines told them to leave airplane to allow straight couple to sit together

David Cooley and his partner were told to make the switch or leave the plane

Alaska Airlines – Photo: Robert Karma / Flickr

A gay couple claims that they were forced to leave an Alaska Airlines flight after they refused to sit separately so that a straight couple could sit together.

David Cooley, who owns the popular West Hollywood gay bar The Abbey, said he and his partner were in their assigned premium seats waiting to begin their trip from New York to LA on Alaska Airlines flight 1407.

After they had been in their seats “for a while,” a flight attendant approached them asking for Cooley’s partner to move to an economy seat so that a heterosexual couple could sit together.

When Cooley said they were a couple and did not want to sit apart, the attendant said they could either make the move or deboard the plane.

“We could not bear the feeling of humiliation for an entire cross-country flight and left the plane,” Cooley said in a Facebook post on Sunday. “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.”

Cooley and his partner eventually booked a flight on Delta Airlines, writing: “If you are an #LGBT person, please spend your travel dollars with an LGBT friendly airline like Delta.”

Alaska Airlines released a statement saying that a booking issue caused the situation.

“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,” the airline said. “It’s our policy to keep all families 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.”

The airline added that they have “a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind.” A spokesperson later told CBS News that they had accidentally booked two people into one seat, and asked Cooley’s partner to move to rectify the error.

Despite the incident, Alaskan Airlines has an exceptional track record in LGBTQ inclusivity. The airline scored a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Buyers’ Guide and even have a section of their website dedicated to “LGBT travel planning.”

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