Did Alaska Airlines Discriminate Against A Gay Couple?

Filed Under: Alaska

There’s a story that’s making the rounds that several people have asked me to write about, regarding an Alaska Airlines passenger who claims to have been discriminated against for being gay.

David Cooley is the founder of The Abbey in West Hollywood, which is a popular gay bar/club. Here’s his version of what happened on his Alaska Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles, which he shared on his Facebook page:

I have never been so discriminated against while traveling before. 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. After my traveling companion and I had been seated in our assigned seats for a while, we were approached by the flight attendant and my companion was asked to move from his premium seat to coach, so a couple could sit together. I explained that we were a couple and wanted to sit together. He was given a choice to either give up the premium seat and move to coach or get off the plane. We could not bear the feeling of humiliation for an entire cross-country flight and left the plane. 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. We will never be flying Alaska Airlines or their recently purchased Virgin Airlines Group ever again. Thank you to Delta Air Lines for getting us home safe. If you are an #LGBT person, please spend your travel dollars with an LGBT friendly airline like Delta.

This of course sounds really bad, but I think there’s more to this story than meets the eye. There’s no denying that there’s a lot of discrimination out there, and it’s especially common in travel, given the number of different cultures that clash.

However, I don’t think that it’s automatically discrimination when a gay person has a bad customer service experience. Of course it sounds like it based on the way David’s account is shared, that they gave “preferential treatment to a straight couple,” and that his companion was asked to move so “a couple could sit together.”

Alaska Airlines claims that’s not quite what happened. Rather there were duplicate seat assignments for those seats:

When boarding flight 1407 from JFK to LAX, a couple was mistakenly assigned the same seats as another couple in Premium Class. We reseated one of the guests from Premium class in the main cabin. We are deeply sorry for the situation, and are investigating the details while communicating directly with the guests involved to try and make this right. Alaska Airlines has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind, and our employees value inclusion for our guests and each other.

Don’t get me wrong, no matter what, duplicate seat assignments and having to reseat someone who is already seated is very bad customer service. Someone was going to be extremely unhappy regardless of the outcome.

In situations like these, airlines typically have policies in place regarding the order in which they’d reseat people. This could be based on status, or based on who paid for the seats, rather than who was upgraded. We don’t yet know whether the correct procedure was followed or not.

Based on what was shared so far, I don’t think we can conclude that the intent was to give preferential treatment to a straight couple. I don’t see any reason to conclude that this decision was based on an airline representative deciding it was more important for a straight couple to sit together than for a gay couple to sit together.

Both Alaska and Virgin America have a great record when it comes to equality. This flight was operated by former Virgin America employees, and Virgin America may just be the most gay-friendly airline on earth. I mean, look at this Tweet:

And have you seen their safety video?!


So we’ll have to wait and see what the investigation reveals, regarding whether the correct protocol was followed for reseating people in the event of seat duplicates. Based on what we know so far, though, I see no reason to conclude that the decision was based on feeling it’s more important for a straight couple to sit together than for a gay couple to sit together.

Regardless, a case of seat duplicates is always awful and will leave a sour taste in your mouth, whether straight, gay, or anywhere inbetween.

  1. Well its kind of obvious that the reason they were “moved” wasnt because they were GAY (no discrimination), but due a mistake done on seat assignment. Now you see that when things dont go their way, some people start to shout racism, bigot, etc etc.

  2. So refreshing! Our society has detoriated to snap judgements being made when anything involves race, sexuality, gender, etc. Your level headedness is much appreciated!

  3. My spouse and I are occasionally asked to change seats such that we sit separately, because we are of different races so people assume we are two separate single travelers. If that was the case here, it is not discrimination as such, just wrong ass-u-mptions.

  4. He was given a choice to either give up the premium seat and move to coach or get off the plane.

    Can they drag you off anymore if you’re already in your seat with a boarding pass with your seat assignment on it? I figure they should treat it like an involuntary denied boarding and start offering $ to get people to move. The FA could say, “Ladies and gentlemen it looks like we have an oversold situation here in premium. Anyone willing to move back will get $500. No takers? $1000 etc.

  5. My understanding is that the gay couple had already sat down, and that one person from it was removed to make space for someone from the second couple. If a seat is booked twice, then of course the rule is that who sits first keeps it and the one not yet there is reassigned. Thus, discrimination for whatever reason is clearly at play here, and so the interpretation by David rings true prima facie, no?

  6. @ Quincy — That’s not the rule, though. When it comes to seat duplicates, I don’t know of any airline that has a rule that whoever sits down first gets the seat. Rather, the priority is established based on other factors, like fare paid, who booked first, status, etc. And I think that’s a logical rule. In other words, should a full fare business class passenger who booked first and has higher status not get a seat in the case of duplicates if someone who doesn’t have status but upgraded last minute sat down first?

  7. If a seat is booked twice, then of course the rule is that who sits first keeps it and the one not yet there is reassigned.

    That was a change in policy at United after the incident with Dr. Dao incident. It’s not universal as far as I know.

  8. As a gay person I will just say that I am getting a little tired of the discrimination card being played every time something negative happens to someone. It takes away from real instances of discrimination should they occur.

    An aside question, Why do these “Discriminatory” events seem to always occur to people with large social media followings? Remember that Adam Saleh deal on Delta?

  9. That’s really news to me, and it surprises me also legally, compared to seat assignments in other contexts (such as theaters), etc. In Germany, you’d have a court case. That may well be my ignorance regarding air travel, which is neither my profession nor my hobby, but it may be the reason why David’s and other people’s feelings were that discrimination must be at play here, because I would think this would be the intuitive assumption. (Theoretically and legally, I confess I cannot see any logic in why fare base, let alone status, should have any bearing on whether someone is removed from a position they are entitled to *and* they have actually taken. If you sit down and you have a valid ticket, it’s yours, no matter what the fine print says.)

  10. Definitely requires more information to make a complete judgment (e.g. if the other couple had significant status, and I was part of the couple with that status, I would expect to have the airline preference me for the seat). Now why on earth you would use the fact that someone is a “couple” as the reason for them getting preference, if that’s what happened, is clearly a communication / customer service failure. Could have been unintentional discrimination if they assumed the two men were not a couple and could be split up and then didn’t want to back down as they were embarrassed once they had used that excuse already.

    I will also say, given that there’s no video of a confrontation or other escalating tension from this incident it’s refreshing that the rightly disgruntled passenger (whether or not this was truly discrimination), voluntarily got off the flight with his partner rather than caused a scene that would have lost him the high ground in this argument. Because regardless of the discrimination aspect, Alaska majorly screwed up in allowing double seat assignments.

    Interestingly, a friend who is GS on United had his wife upgraded on an international flight and on the return, United split the reservations for some reason and unattached her upgrade, putting her back in economy. The husband ended up making enough of a fuss with United (as it was their screw up) that they downgraded another business passenger who had used an upgrade and re-upgraded her. Could imagine something slightly more nuanced like this happening but if that was the case, the airline needed to better own the screw up.

  11. @ John — I think there’s an important distinction to be made between being removed from a flight and being reseated. The passenger wasn’t removed from the flight, but rather they were given the option of an alternative seat, and given that, they preferred to deplane. This is different than an oversold situation when there’s not physically a seat available on a plane.

  12. @Kyle, I don’t think these ‘discriminatory’ events only happen to people with large social media followings. I think it’s more that we hear about them due to their large social media followings. I’ve had my share of discriminatory behaviour but don’t have a large (any) social media following.

  13. This is different than an oversold situation when there’s not physically a seat available on a plane.

    In terms of customer service, they should treat a class of service being oversold the same as the flight being oversold.

    I think there’s an important distinction to be made between being removed from a flight and being reseated.

    True, but I’ve always read United’s position of once passengers are seated on an aircraft they will not be removed except for safety or security reasons. To mean removed from their seat.

  14. Exactly what John said.
    I thought after United & the Dr Dao incident, anyone with a valid boarding pass and in their seat are entitled to it.
    FA want someone to move, offer them something, not threaten them.

  15. “We could not bear the feeling of humiliation for an entire cross-country flight and left the plane.”

    Dude sure makes life tough for himself.

  16. @John – I recently had a tight connection while flying on a paid American F ticket. I boarded late and my F seat was taken. The FA alerted the GA and the passenger in my seat was removed from F and given a seat in Y. I’m assuming he was upgraded at the gate on the assumption that I would not make the connection. I’m not sure what would have happened if the flight had been completely full. The thing I found amazing was that my BP was scanned and they let me on the flight – can’t the system detect duplicate seat assignments?

  17. @ John — Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but for these purposes I don’t think Premium Class is considered a separate class of service. Rather it’s a premium section within economy, so it’s not different than if you paid for an aisle seat, or paid for an exit row seat, or paid for a seat towards the front of the plane. When you do a search on Alaska’s website, you’ll see options for economy and first class, and then Premium Class is a buy-up within economy.

  18. I am an Alaska MVP Gold 75K and am gay. My partner and I have never experienced any sort of discrimination while flying Alaska. While I am sympathetic to any passenger losing a seat assignment due to a double booking (It has happened to me before), to make the leap that the airline did that because they were gay is ludicrous. Decisions like that are based on status, fare, and connecting information. Unless the gate agent said something homophobic, his assertions are not valid.

  19. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but for these purposes I don’t think Premium Class is considered a separate class of service.

    Ah that’s somewhat different. But in that case why the need to move the seated passenger? In my experience they ask nicely if you’d be willing to move if you say no then they tell you to take a seat or get off.

  20. I agree that this sounds like a situation that should have been handled better but doesn’t sound like anti-gay discrimination.

    As a gay guy though I am offended by that Virgin tweet. Seriously? Must we all be defined by our sexual roles?

  21. David Cooley sounds like an entitled whiner who wants to cry “discrimination” just to cause a ruckus. The situation sucked to be sure but this culture of claiming discrimination or bias whenever things don’t go your way has to stop. It’s so childish and ridiculous.
    This coming from a gay man.

  22. There is a specific field on all boarding passes called ‘sequence’ , sequential order that flyers checked online. This value was used to determine changes on overbookings or flight issues…. Now its not used as much

  23. Gays always say that they’re being discriminated anytime anything remotely bad happens, even when it’s blatantly not discriminatory. I doubt the airline even knew they were a gay couple before they asked one of them to move. But I bet all the gays and people who want to look as though they’re liberal are jumping all over this story despite no firm eveidence

  24. @ John — Because presumably they were doing it based on what the policy is regarding the order in which they move people. Like I said, I agree that this wasn’t handled well in terms of customer service, but I don’t see anything indicating that there was discrimination here (even from David’s perspective).

  25. ‘“We could not bear the feeling of humiliation for an entire cross-country flight and left the plane.”

    Oh, puh-lease, cry me a river.

    People are idiots. Social media makes them even more idiotic. End of story.

  26. @lucky @Quincy
    There we again have a difference between German/European and US law. Under German law Quincy is right. If I have a boardingpass for a dedicated seat, the boardingpass is accepted at the boarding process and I have taken my seat, this seat is mine in fulfilment of my contract with the airline (except free upgrades, which are not part of the contract). So it is the responsibility of the airline 1. to make sure that the second boardingpass is not accepted at boarding or 2. where to place the second passenger. I would of course deny to give up my seat for one not equal in class or position (i.e. a middle seat instead of an aisle one).
    One more reason why I refuse to fly US airlines (though I do have a lifetime Admirals Club membership I cannot use very often)

  27. How is the official explanation any better? A gay couple was split up with no acknowledgement that they even were a couple. I think there is every chance that at least some part of the treatment was discriminatory – even if only an assumption that they were not a couple. I think that’s an assumption gay couples face all too often and I think the passenger is right to pursue a complaint to at least get the true facts exposed.

  28. This happened to me, too. It’s not discrimination it’s just Alaska’s occasional incompetence in this case. (I think they’re a good airline, they just occasionally do screw up.)

    Alaska’s had a lot of issues with duplicate seating assignments, and the same thing happened to me on a Virgin flight where I lost my MCS upgrade (as an MVP Gold) and got pushed to a lesser coach seat -after- I was seated when another passenger (who had been rebooked from a cancelled VX flight) came on towards the end of boarding with a ticket for my seat, and the GA came onboard and in a hurried manner said ‘oh, there were duplicates because your ticket number was incorrectly entered at check in, you need to move. Write in and they’ll compensate you.’

    I wrote in inquiring about it, but said I’d be happy for them to at least to comp me for my $38.00 BoB tab (That sounds decadent but that’s 3 drinks + chips + a sandwich) and was told ‘well, since you only paid for a coach seat you aren’t entitled to anything.’

    Not a great showing, but after following up with a polite “maybe own your operational mistakes” I got a $75.00 voucher.

  29. Alaska should do a better job instructing its employees about how to engage in better customer service to avoid situations like this. If these passengers were lawfully being asked to move, the flight attendant should have been trained to say something to the effect of “We regret this inconvenience and have already put in a request for your flight to be fully refunded.” It would have been a lot cheaper in the long run…

  30. The Alaska tweet is grossly glossing over something. Alaska tweeted “… a couple was mistakenly assigned the same seats as another couple in Premium Class.” Then, Alaska immediately followed this by stating that they “… reseated one of the guests from Premium class in the main cabin.” What? If they mistakenly seated a couple — meaning 2 people – then why did they just reseat ONE of the guests? 2 does not equal 1, and Akaska’s tweet does not add up.

    Clearly we do not know what happened here. But Alaska’s lack of transparency and inconsistent explanation suggests that there may be more to this event than they care to divulge.

  31. “That was a change in policy at United after the incident with Dr. Dao incident. It’s not universal as far as I know.”

    Actually, that was United’s policy before Dr. Dao had the crap beaten out of him. It was even referenced in DOT documents and in testimony before Congress. Oscar got fairly seriously grilled over that before Congress, and rightfully so. United just wasn’t following their own policy.

  32. Excellent. Glad his restaurant is named.

    Now I can go write a bogus review with no merit at all.

    I’m sure he’ll understand.

  33. If you are fat, minority, gay, maybe blind or something, you’d be able to sue everyone. Be rich. Hell, Virgin posts a gross sexual tweet and it’s applauded as gay friendly.

  34. I think @Traveler has the right idea. I don’t feel it was overt discrimination, rather that in a heteronormative world it’s still uncommon to assume two men/women travelling together are a couple who also would like to sit together. Many gay married couples keep their last names, so even then it’s not apparent there’s a correlation if simply looking at a pax manifest. I’d want to know if either couple was on the same reservation with the same record locator. If the gay couple weren’t whilst the straight couple were, then I think that may be an indication of why one couple received “preferential” treatment. Plus, I’m sure there’s more to the story. And, FWIW, I’m a gay dude.

  35. Puh-leeze! As someone who once worked for this man, I can tell you that this is nothing more than the rantings of a privileged middle-aged man who has let the success of his bar go to his head. Discrimination? More like an attempt to score some free press under the guise of acting as a pseudo-Norma Rae for the gay rights movement.

  36. First class seats are groups of two. Why would only one person from this couple be asked to move?
    That in no way makes room for a new couple to sit together.
    It makes no sense.

  37. @Chuck Lester – You need to educate yourself about what defines discrimination. It does not have to be intentional, since the effect plays a large role in defining whether an action is discriminatory. Separating you from your spouse because you are of different races is actually discrimination, regardless of whether that was the intent. The result is that you are discriminated against because of race.

  38. or maybe the plane was changed between an A320 and A321. Premium cabin are rows 3,4,5,6 on the A321 – but only Row 3 in that section is premium.

  39. In a straight couple the woman is always right. She gets the higher class seat? How do gays decide which one is the woman?

  40. there is no woman in a gay relationship hence why it’s a gay relationship. that would be up to who is more generous.

  41. Ahh, I`m sorry but feels like first worlds problems. its the same as
    BUt in general so in reality if we play that if you sit first you get a seat, but I believe there isn`t stated that if the seat is taken you cannot sit in it. SO basically if my ticket say That’s my seat I just sit down and Don`t care if there is someone sitting, what would that kind of incident be, as both have right to sit there and obviously both think they are mistreated so, in this case, there is only win-win if you get another preferred seat which I believe would be strange if the seats are sold twice. would he be in Muslim Country probably he would not say that, but that’s, of course, the part that shows we all have our things to improve. Sorry for oftopic just wanted to share some thoughts.

  42. Yes agreed. The relationship should be gender neutral. No special treatment for women.

    Also do you think it’s discrimination against single people that they cannot go on paid maternity leave? Why should I have to pop out a kid to go on maternity leave? Everyone should get the leave. You can use it to pop out a kid or go travel and have fun. It’s your personal choice.

    Women are discriminatory and evil.

  43. All of you who have responded with negative comments should wait to see the outcome. This is from a man who happens to be one of the kindest and most honorable persons I know. You need to remember the sensitivity felt being a gay man. Don’t judge please.

  44. my point was there is no woman in a gay relationship hence the dichotomy between straight couples and gay men. chivalry still exists between many straight couples and I think that’s fantastic. when I was married to a woman before I came out as gay I always gave my ex wife priority over me. I still get up from the table whenever a woman stands up, I open doors for women, I defend their special role as mothers, especially since I just got back from burying my mother Saturday in Chicago. I think you’ll find gay men honor women a whole lot more than many straight men do.

  45. Your comments are disgraceful. He does not need anymore PR. He’s extremely successful. How about just feeling hurt, embarrassed. Take the time to think before you write something you do not have any clue about the person.

  46. She needs no more promotion. Disgraceful that you would say this. And he is not privileged. He worked hard for everything he has achieved. He’s the most down to earth person I know. Shameful the comments.

  47. @Debit
    I was just on a trip to Iceland. On the return downhill leg on a moderate hike with my sister, I went a few paces faster. She overheard the wife of a couple behind her say “what a jerk, the dude just left his pregnant wife behind and didn’t carry her backpack.” My sister corrected them saying “Gross gross gross, he’s my brother. I can carry my own bag.” The couple ended up laughing and saying that makes more sense. In this age where women want to be seen as more strong and independent, men still get flack. Double standard.

  48. The real outrage is that airlines have total control over seating regardless of when you chose the seat, how much you paid for it, your status or lack thereof, etc. etc.. That Alaska failed to consider how it looks to apparently favor a straight couple over a gay one just goes to show how little airlines actually care about your seat preferences.

    BTW anyone who thinks the passenger is complaining about nonexistent discrimination obviously has never been booted from their assigned seat because the gate agents/FA’s regarded another passenger’s comfort as greater than your own. Speak for yourself.

  49. David’s post on Facebook indicates it is impossible he was discriminated against. He wrote that when his partner was asked to be reseated, that he clarified for the flight attendant that they were a couple. So how could the FA have possibly discriminated based on sexual orientation if the FA wasn’t even aware that they were a gay couple before making the reassignment request? David must be assuming that the FA knew they were a gay couple before making the reassignment request, and just played ignorant upon talking to them. That’s the only scenario here I can think of that leads to deliberate discrimination.

  50. You got kicked off because you failed to follow “safety” instructions.

    America has gone too far. Blame everything on discrimination against race gender sexuality. But never on age or physically challenged?
    I’m 14 I want my beer. I’m 8 I want to get married. I’m 80 you cannot call me old. I have no legs and 1 arm I want to sit in an exit row.

    Double standard on everything.

    I can’t ask a friend to eat fried chicken without the race card being used. WTF, fried chicken is good.
    Papa John got blackmailed for a similar reason.

  51. Yeah. If Democrats want to win they need to rein in this PC BS.

    Intent matters more than delivery and/or choice of words. Affirmative action needs to be class based not race based. Make everything gender neutral. Women get special treatment for only next X years i.e. diversity goals in tech field etc. Then everyone swims on their own. No more open ended welfare programs. But there should be basic income and fully free healthcare. 100% death taxes. No more dynastic wealth. Eff Republicans!

  52. What I find hilarious is the never ending self entitlement. I’m Elite status status status, me me me, more more more….arrghhhh!!! Time and time again all I am seeing is me me me, and never a word on (GASP) common decency, being a human. If someone is already seated, they should remain and too bad. The ELITE or Full fare passenger should take it up with the airline SINCE that passenger has no idea whether those seated are in fact higher (gasp) Elite members or full fare.

    It shouldn’t matter. The airline needs to make sure this is not happening and if it is, they need to monitor and progressively check during boarding.

    The world today is full of self entitled brats on freebies. I looooooove freebies omg, but I also respect others. People and bloggers complain about lounges being full…guess why they are full??? THAT in itself is an article waiting to be written and has a direct connection to this AS/VX story!.

    I feel I am a respectful Elite and full fare passengers. I also get a lot of free flights/hotels/cars…Im fairly spoiled….but I NEVER forget that other people are also human (well, most).

    @Ben – just because an airline is incredibly gay friendly….does not mean everyone who works there is. With that said, the owner of the Abbey is known for being a real………

  53. @Eskimo – No, the CEO of Papa Johns (nasty plastic GMO laden pizza) is a racist. Just like the President of Paramount TV got caught making her remarks. There is a difference between being PC and enduring racism which happens nonstop, rampantly on the rise in the USA. Unless you are a person of color you have no idea!

    Funnily enough when I listen to people like you, it becomes clear. If you are accused of being a racist, chances are you probably are, perhaps minor but you’ve possibly made comments in the past. Juuuuuuust saying!. It’s like people who make racist and gay jokes as jokes. No, you are showing your true colors and WE DO hear you.

    Unfortunately when people play the race or gay card for effect, it takes away from those who are truly being discriminated against. I feel Ben endured such treatment in CAI the other day, was my strong feeling.

  54. @Jay that is exactly right he himself proves there was no discrimination as the initial request was made before he said they were a couple

  55. Soo tired of the first thing out of someone’s mouth is racism of some kind. Mistakes happen, and people have a habit of seating in seats where they feel like. We all know that status counts, the airline computer isn’t racist and can care less what your orientation is. The computer system made a mistake and the person that is more valuable to the airline gets the seat. Case closed. People need to get the fuck over any little slight.

  56. “So how could the FA have possibly discriminated based on sexual orientation if the FA wasn’t even aware that they were a gay couple before making the reassignment request?”

    I think the concern about discrimination is twofold

    a) an assumption that two men travelling together weren’t a couple which led to them being approached in the first place
    b) and, once the FA was told were a couple, that was ignored

    In both cases

    a) would a man and woman travelling together have been approached in the first place?
    b) and, once they said they were a couple, would the FA have still tried to split them up?

    We don’t know – but it has a whiff of manure about it all the same

  57. I haven’t seen a gay guy get this angry at an airline since Zach Honig did not initially receive his Old Fashioned drink on United.

  58. Ben, thanks for the careful analysis you provided. You were fair and called out both sides of the issue and gave real clarity to the matter! I appreciated the way you conducted the article.

  59. And. Leave this blog here. For good.

    Let’s review this fiesta of bad judgment from OMAT’s editor:

    – Repeated a story based on a Facebook Post (nary a single first hand source)
    – Casts doubt on the story that the blog repeats
    – Fails to call out, let alone adhere to even the most rudimentary journalistic standards
    – Loads up the post with ads

    There’s a place for blogs. They don’t have to be written by journalists. There is no place for bloggers who behave this way. You may not have to be a journalist but you need to have a basic grasp of ethics. This post shows that you do not.

    Shame on you.

  60. When the facts are not completely uncovered, I understand people could have their reservations on exactly what happened in this flight. What I don‘t understand is why Ben can just easily de-creditted these gay couple’s first hand experience and chose to give the benefit of the doubts to a Corporate machine rather than people in minority, esepcially in this screwed up society.

  61. @Patrick
    Goodbye, no one will miss you.
    Keep up the good work.
    I don’t see how this would be any different in Germany. You would be entitled for the EU compensation for delays though.
    But there is absolutely no rule in Germany that passengers who are seated have any special right, aside from the usual contract of carriage, which always includes a notice of possible overbooking.

  62. @Patrick Larvie – you are spot-on.

    This post is nothing but self-serving clickbait. Par for the course here. Spoiled children…

  63. Sorry Quincy but you are wrong. It is generally the person who paid for the seat first who gets it. Paid seats are going to trump upgrades and non rev. Does not sound like discrimination at all but rather someone who is upset looking for their 10 minutes of fame.

  64. Ben, well written article despite not receiving accolades from Patrick! (Opinions are much like assholes, everybody has one!)
    Speaking of… Debit and Fritz, you go right ahead and pop out a baby, see how that works for you! And by the way, shut the hell up!

  65. Ditto @kyle

    Anther gay man here, and one of a seemingly endangered species that refuses to play victim.

    Anita Bryant gave up caring what we do in bed a long time ago, and most of the rest of the world has gotten over it as well.

  66. Hmm… I found out who this guy is (he’s a friend of my bro-in-law) and well known in the Los Angeles area. This guy probably has higher status than the couple – that’s all I know. I’ll be curious is this pics up traction locally.

  67. Hmm… I found out who this guy is (he’s a friend of my bro-in-law) and well known in the Los Angeles area. This guy probably has higher status than the couple – that’s all I know. I’ll be curious is this pics up traction locally.

  68. Anne,

    Stop being selfish. Your argument is that people not having babies should not get maternity leave. How selfish and negative.

    You should fight for everyone getting it.

  69. Here is what Alaska is stating on Twitter— “We mistakenly booked two people in one seat.”

    That may make a like more sense why one person of the couple was asked to move.

  70. I don’t mean to come across as homophobic, but I have to ask the question. How did the FA know that David Cooley and his partner were a couple? Is it not possible for 2 gay men to travel together as friends? And if the FA didn’t even know they were gay, would it still be discrimination?

  71. The comments here really reinforced my belief in the “not in front of company” doctrine. Can’t be inviting bigots to bigot and agree with you at the same time.

  72. Fun Fact: David Cooley’s bar consistently makes Top 25 Revenue Generating Nightclubs, Bars, + Lounges in the U.S> List. Revenue in 2015 $10M to $15M.

  73. I note that at no point in the nightclub owner’s rant does he say that his companion booked a premium seat or paid for a premium seat. This suggests companion was upgraded there, perhaps prematurely or mistakenly.

  74. The key moment here is if they were asked to be reseated so a couple could sit together. What were the two men told? At that point it doesn’t matter what the priority level was, the Alaska Airline employee made the assumption and tried to sell the two they didn’t think were a couple to give their seats up to a “real” couple. I agree that interracial couples would face this too. Then it doesn’t matter what the intent or priority was, the message (intended or otherwise) was clear. We see a white man and a white woman as a couple. We don’t have to think about it or remember our diversity training. We can just live on privilege. I also wonder if the man/woman couple knew how they got their seats. Alaska Airlines now has two problems–one to the larger glbt community and those straight folks who would be offended by this possibility, and another to their lgbt employees. Target had to apologize to its glbt employees after giving money to a homophobic candidate and it took a while to recover, though I think within a year same-sex couples began appearing in their ads for the first time, and they had the advantage of not having Wal-Mart’s worse reputation. Alaska Airlines doesn’t have a Wal-Mart. I’ll be intrigued to see how much this story makes news and how quickly Alaska gets pro-active on this.

  75. Then the second couple should not be able to board cause when they scan the board passes, the machine would signal red and not let going through.
    It just the crew trying to kick someone out rudely without paying.
    Bad luck for gay couple, and awful service of AS.

  76. Unfortunately, this blog got duped. David Cooley is an old-school drama queen who loves to generate press for his bar. There is very little credibility to this claim. Everyone in West Hollywood knows what a story teller he is… pure fiction.

  77. Very refreshing to read this take and also most of these comments that actually apply a degree of levelheadedness to the situation. Although I am straight, I am a minority (Latino) and it makes me cringe everytime someone is “playing their card” to get attention. Good on you Lucky and co. for choosing to wait for more info before bringing out the torches.

  78. “Exactly what John said.
    I thought after United & the Dr Dao incident, anyone with a valid boarding pass and in their seat are entitled to it.
    FA want someone to move, offer them something, not threaten them.”

    Here’s United’s policy. As someone else already said, this was United’s policy before they roughed up Dao, but they weren’t following it.

    As soon as someone is on the airplane and physically in their assigned seat, they can’t be removed. The seat is their’s. They are on, its their seat, that’s it. The United staff need to offer the passenger something to entice him to move – money, an upgrade later on, etc. That doesn’t mean that they won’t deboard the entire plane to get someone off, and airlines have done that, but its a pretty draconian step, especially if its a large plane. In Doctor Dao’s case, he was well within his right to refuse to deboard. He was simply exercising United’s own policy. The United people either didn’t know their company’s own policy or didn’t care. The key is, ‘ya gotta be on the plane and sitting in your assigned seat. Memo to self, arrive at the gate early and get on the big shiny bird as fast as possible!

    Okay, so what is Alaska’s policy? Does anyone know of its the same? I’m going to assume that it is, as most airlines mirror each other in things like this. Can anyone confirm?

  79. Gay or not, that is bad customer service. Airlines need to be extra careful these days.

    I agree with the comments above that AS should have offered compensation to some passengers to fly later. It isn’t going to cost them any cash as it is only a travel voucher. Some companies are really short sighted and shoot themselves in the foot.

    Just watch this develop and you’ll see AS offer the complainant a travel voucher to make up for his trouble. However the damage is already done.

  80. I’m gay, and I say no.

    There could be better communication why the two seats ended up going to the winning couple, but I’m not seeing homophobic reason as the cause.

    If it were two straight couples, what is it the arbitrary factor then– ageism? Does that get equal coverage?

  81. Hmmm. As a gay man I understand the knee jerk reaction to complain. We’re sensitive to society devaluing our partnerships… it’s only been 3 years since we won our right to marry. However, I don’t think this guy is a leader for our community and has shown poor judgement with his accusation. Anyone who flies enough to have status knows that absolutely everyone will be treated horribly by the airline at some point. Also, I will say using the label companion is neutral to the point of it being a friendship and not a couple.

    One time I flew Alaska from Vancouver to LAX with my then boyfriend, he was 53 and I was 30. We had separately upgraded to first class but both had window seats. He did ask his seatmate if we could swap and the guy said he wouldn’t switch said “your son should learn to fly alone.” My then boyfriend got super embarrassed and shut down. Then I asked my seatmate and she begrudging agreed to moved. After this experience I now move immediately if a couple asks to sit together. It’s the right thing to do.

  82. The FA may have followed procedure or may not have. It may be true that the gay couple were removed unfairly, but I don’t think there’s much to do with discrimination.
    I feel like Coolney is forcing the topic of “gay discrimination” into this incident just to get sympathy and political correctness to play along his side. Such action actually makes his words less credible.

  83. Two things stick out to me here:

    1) The gay couple was told they were being separated so that another couple – who happened to be straight – could sit together. That doesn’t seem to be the real reason why they were asked to move (which was that there were duplicate seat assignments), but that’s how the situation seems to have been presented to them. If this is truly the case – that they were asked to move so that “a couple” could sit together, I can understand why the gay couple would feel hurt, embarrassed, and devalued;

    2) The general lack of critical consciousness regarding race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion of some of the readers of OMAAT never ceases to amaze me. Some of you should be ashamed of what you write here and your general lack of empathy – I suspect in real life you would never have the guts to say what you do here, hidden behind your screens. SMH

  84. That sure brought a lot of ugly out of some people. “Gays always say,,,” Wow. Really, do they? And my favorite, “Soo tired of the first thing out of someone’s mouth is racism…” since I never knew gay people were a race. LOL.

    So of course the seat bumping incident it could never have involved any kind of discrimination. Never. Not possible. Not in America in this day and age.

    That said, “First in Seat” should be in the Passengers Bill of Rights and codified into law. Seems to be working for United, now in their post-Dr. Doa period. It will save them a few million in future lawsuits too. Giving your customer a broken nose and a concussion to give up a seat is so yesterday.

  85. But why would they break up a couple travelling together? Why not approach a solo traveller? I don’t get it.

  86. @Lars
    you are wrong. As you stated, it is a question of the contract. And with giving me a special seat (by accepting my boarding pass at boarding and letting me sit down, the airline is fulfilling the contract. So everyone coming later may having a right for the same seat, which the airline cannot fulfill, but this is problem of the other contract, not mine. If you sell a book twice, the contract of the person actually receiving the book is fulfilled, the other person can claim breech of contract and compensation, only. But taking the book from the first one and giving it to the second is impossible under German law or needs another contract with the consent of everyone involved (seller an both buyers / airline and all passengers)

  87. “Gays always say that they’re being discriminated anytime anything remotely bad happens, even when it’s blatantly not discriminatory. I doubt the airline even knew they were a gay couple before they asked one of them to move. But I bet all the gays and people who want to look as though they’re liberal are jumping all over this story despite no firm eveidence”

    So why is the “couple” card used when it is a male and female, but that same card not used when it is two males or two females? The key would be if you don’t know two individuals are a couple then you ask – are you two travelling together? Funny how those in the majority never consider discrimination.

  88. Everyone complain how airlines are incompetent about bookings, seat assignment, baggage, and multitude of other issues, yet the first thing that comes to mind to this gay couple when asked to change seat is that it’s discrimination. I mean, it could be, but statistically it could be a host of all there other stuff that goes wrong in regards to airlines that people are already constantly complaining about. If you look for discrimination everywhere, you will see it even when it isn’t.
    I read the article, and literally, the first thing that comes to their mind is discrimination, and there is no pondering if it could be something else.

  89. If the flight attendant represented to David and his partner to move so the straight couple could sit together, yes that is discrimination. Did the flight attendant explain that the seat was also assigned to another passenger? If they did not, then I could see why the gay couple would feel discriminated against.

  90. It is the FA, with the approval of the corporate culture, deciding that it’s more important for a straight couple to sit together than a gay couple. You and many of your commenters don’t have a problem with anti-gay bigotry so you gloss over it and think the gay couple should “just get over it,” and “we should wait for the whole story.” As if gay people are automatically liars.

    Disguising your prejudice as fair-mindedness is the most corrosive kind of bigotry.

    I’m sure you would also have enabled Harvey Weinsteinby telling his assault victims the same things.

  91. @Jordan – You can have your opinions. This is mine. First I am against the use of the N-word. But I am also offended by describing a race with POC. My ancestors are not rainbow colored people. I do agree making racist joke is not a joke. But I also think there should not be a double standard.

    Nobody should ever use the N-word regardless of your race. I find it very disturbing that musicians are using these words. Friends are calling each other using that word. Just because both of us endure racism means we can use it among ourselves? It is a bad word that should never be used.
    Now we all know that is impossible, that is why I focus more on context. So when a white person sings along a Kanye West, I don’t think it’s fair to call racist but I think that person is not properly educated in what is acceptable is today’s double standard society. Same benchmark I use on Papa John, dumb move yes, racist no.

    And I believe the more society is pushing soon even the phase “n-word” that we use to describe the word might be considered racist. Don’t accuse someone be being a racist if you don’t even know the full story you are just fueling the issue even further.

  92. All the apologists overlook an important factor. They were already seated. The airline made a decision that the straight couple deserved the seats already occupied by the gay couple. Why didn’t the other couple get offered the alternatives from which the gay couple was forced to choose. Spin it for the airline all you want, but this doesn’t pass the smell test of just a simple oversight.

  93. I have been a flight attendant for a MAJOR international airline and an elite member of Continental, USAirways, back in the day.
    ​Our rule of thumb, back “in the day” was that seat occupancy was 9/10th of the law.
    In 2008, my husband and I booked full “Y” tickets on CO from TPA to SAN and upgraded using miles… to get married.
    Our return reservation was booked on a separete PNR in FULL F class.
    CO had an equipment change from TPA to IAH. I would that both of us were downgraded to middle seats in economy. I fought it at the gate
    and won. We didnt sit together, despite all the “straight” people offering up their seats. But it was “our” usual Newark crew who celebrated our
    nuptionals with the entire F cabin being champagned to death !
    It was NOT gay discrimination, it was an equipment change. It happens. And when you have spent nearly $4,000.00 on domestic tickets
    and are an Elite member, you have some arguing rights.
    Did AS descriminate ? I dont think so. Did they gate agent make a bad choice ? YES. Not everything is about who your boyfriend is.​

  94. In the FWIW mode…

    1) I cannot see for the life of me how this was anti-gay discrimination. Whether the seats were somehow double-booked, or there was an equipment change, is irrelevant — the point is that a) double-booking is something that airlines try to prevent (“try” being the operative word), but let’s face it, $#|+ happens, and b) equipment changes happen, period.¹. Anyone and everyone who flies/has flown, say 20x in his/her life will have run into the problem. Again, nothing intentional or deliberate: fecal material occurs.

    2) It is a sad fact of Life in America today (indeed, the entire world) that people quickly cry “Foul!” — it’s become a knee-jerk reaction — whether it’s deserved or not. And clearly, sometimes it IS deserved, but not always. People do scream at black people barbecuing in a public park; people do yell at someone with brown skin to “go back to their own country; you don’t belong here!” when in fact they were born in Des Moines; and people do discriminate against others whose partner is of the same gender as they are. Yes, it happens. But not every single action is a discriminatory one; not every interaction is a result of someone’s bias. Yet people still quickly scream foul, even when there’s no justification for it.

    3) Nothing in the above story and/or surrounding tweets, Facebook posts, etc. seem to me to be discriminatory. That said, while my more cynical self agrees with @Tom Kay, that it’s free publicity for The Abbey (not that that place needs it: it’s been there forever and quite successful), I also cannot deny that Mr. Cooley *felt* he and his partner were discriminated against — albeit his reaction seems to have been wholly overblown.

    4) I was Elevate Gold on VX for several years, and am now MVP Gold with AS. In my own personal experience in dealing with AS, their customer service via their call centers has been amazing (even better than VX); the people at the check-in counter have been great, even when they’re too few in number and people in the lines are stressing out; the gate agents have been really good; but that the FA’s have been — well, not “poor” exactly, but certainly disappointing. So, could the whole interaction have been handled better? Of course. What situation couldn’t have been? But nothing about this incident leads me to believe that discrimination was the “force” behind what occurred.

    ¹ Twice, since the AS/VX merger, I’ve received email notifications from AS that my seat has been changed, period. No explanation given. Each time, I called AS to find out why, as the change appeared to take me OUT of Main Cabin Select/Premium Economy (both flights were on VX metal) and into “regular” Economy seats. Both times, I was WRONG — I was still in PE: the first time, it was an equipment change from an A320 to an A321; the second time, the A320 will be (haven’t taken that flight yet) one of the “reconfigured” Virgin America planes to add a row to F (12 seats, rather than 8), and the other rows were renumbered — I was still in PE, but the row number indicated (as per the existing seating chart) that I wasn’t. A quick phone call resolved each potential-but-not-really problem, and AS customer service was GREAT!

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *