Korean Air Lounge New York JFK Blocks “Websites That Cater To Gays”

Filed Under: Korean Air

I flew LOT Polish yesterday from New York to Warsaw, and have a lot to say about that experience. It started with the ground experience. They fly out of Terminal 1, which Lufthansa also flies out of, yet they use the Korean Air Lounge.

And to be clear, it’s not just that they recommend you use the Korean Air Lounge, but they don’t let you into the Lufthansa lounge. Despite that being a direct contradiction of Star Alliance policy:

Customers have access to any Star Alliance member carriers’ owned Business Class lounges.


Even the sign said LOT passengers should have access to the lounge, but apparently they “have no contract with LOT.”


I was going to fight that battle, but I had a bigger battle to fight at the Korean Air Lounge, as it turned out.


The Korean Air Lounge looks decent on the surface, but was possibly the most underwhelming lounge I’ve visited in a long time. First of all, I don’t think the lounge has a single power outlet in the whole damn thing, despite having seating for well over a hundred people.

The food spread was limited to Fig Newtons, Planters Nuts, cookies, crackers, and cheese. That’s it.



If you wanted water, it had to be out of these military-style ration cups.


But all that pales in comparison to what I found most offensive. I was searching the internet for a bar recommendation for a trip a friend is taking soon, and came across this page:

The web page is blocked because it violates network policy.

Reason: Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual – Web pages that cater to or discuss the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender lifestyle.”

It’s 2014 and it’s ‘Murica. Are you freaking kidding me?

So I decided to research how widespread the blocking is. Even HRC and GLAAD were blocked.



Like, I expect this blocking in some places outside of the US, but this is the first time in my life I’ve seen such blocking in the US, and I thought it was terribly offensive (even though I realize probably not a lot of thought went into it on their end).

I brought it to the attention of the lounge attendant, and I explained that while I realize she had nothing to do with it, I would appreciate the contact information for someone in charge of the lounge. She seemed convinced it wasn’t “their” blocking, despite the filter clearly stating it was. She didn’t give me the contact information for anyone and kind of seemed in denial about it, though did take a picture of my screen.

Am I off base? While there seem to be such censorship policies in South Korea, is it appropriate to apply them abroad?

  1. Glad you’ve wrote a post about this. It would be interesting to see what else they block. But should definitely publicize this as much as possible. Is this a Korean Air policy, a lounge policy, or what? I’ve never had trouble in any other location at JFK though…

  2. While I respect the right of a private business operating a wifi access point to block whatever sites it pleases, I think you are 100% making the right move to call them out on this through whatever channels are available to you, especially publicly. Shame can be a powerful thing, even for soulless corporations!

  3. i hope you don’t, because it is absolutely their choice what to block and what not. only thing they might change is reasoning.

  4. It’s their private lounge, they can do what they want.

    Of course, people have the right to boycott them as well.

  5. I bet the Saudia angle is likely correct. I don’t believe I have ever heard of this sort of censorship in South Korea.

  6. Hey, Aeroflot doesn’t exactly fly to the most gay friendly country either, but let’s always blame the Arabs first…

  7. Most likely an oversight. I have worked with this particular filtering software previously and by default it blocks quite a number of things. I would say it’s been installed using fairly default settings to block anything potentially offensive and in doing so some legitimate sites have been blocked as well.

    I’m a tad surprised the lounge attendants weren’t able to log this as a fault and report to their tech team though. Wonder what happens if the connection dies completely? do they just shrug and say nothing can be done?

  8. May web blockers have settings to block gay content, for the bigots in the world to “protect” their children from something that is really nothing bad. (many of them are in Siskiyou county where I am now) So maybe Korean Air just hadn’t turned off the LGBT blocker mode on their blocker that was intended to block porn, illegal websites, and other questionable websites

  9. Good for Korean Air. They can do whatever they like. I am more inclined to fly with them now. Also, is “gay” a race now? I saw reference to racism in an earlier comment. Doesn’t make sense.

  10. Your right it’s 2014……So lets drop the pretend act of “I was searching the internet for a bar recommendation for a trip a friend is taking soon” and I ended up at out.com. I find that just as offensive. There’s difference between keeping your personal life blog and lying about who you are.

  11. I’ve done similar things when I’ve noticed (non-adult) websites being blocked, and also when a lounge sticks only newspapers from a certain political view (an issues in some countries).

    Good on you for taking a stand, and for stepping out of the closet.

  12. WTF!!! I cannot believe this kind of thing happened at an airport lounge in NYC… But like previous commenters pointed out, Saudia could be the one who make such “arrangements”, and it is forgivable. However, if it is any discrimination like that coming from Korean Air, I am sure going to boycott them in the future.

  13. While it is totally appalling that they block these sites, I wholeheartedly believe they have the right to. And you are entirely justified in writing a complaint or whatever to KE, but I think that’s about the extent of formal complaints.

  14. Thanks for posting this, especially on Pride day. It’s absolutely appalling that they have this policy. My only question is whether airline lounges are an extension of national sovereignty as much as aircrafts are. It would be important to know where Americans can exercise their freedoms and whether we can legally complain about such policy. I did not perceive South Korea as being anti-LGBT but if they are, I will seriously consider revising my plans for my trip to Asia next year.

  15. “But like previous commenters pointed out, Saudia could be the one who make such “arrangements”,”

    Again, why not Aeroflot as well?

  16. Any idea if kal was using a VPN in their lounge? For instance, in Chicago at the SAS lounge, a Scandanvian VPN is used so a Scandanvian IP address is generated. Kal could be using a S. Korean VPN. Nonetheless I find the filtering to be inappropriate.

    I find myself relying less and less on wifi in the USA these days because it can be so dodgy. I’ve moved to tethering with my lte iphone as my travel solution.


  17. My guess is similar to @Troy, that they installed a filter and left the defaults. The beef would be with the filter provider, and with Korean for not making it easy to know whom to contact to address it.

    Saudia uses the Etihad lounge at IAD and I’ve not run into blocked sites, I’ll need to try harder with my websurfing on my next visit to test @Chris’ theory.

    Definitely seems a poor choice for a New York lounge, and certainly doesn’t match up with expectations unless the message Korean wants to send it that their practices are in the 4th century and that there is a whole set of premium business that they would rather not have as an airline.

  18. Why are you guys making comments about Ben’s sexual orientation? I have no clue if he’s gay or not, but until anyone chooses to make an explicit statement about their sexual orientation, I do not think it my business to comment on it. As a gay man, I think it’s preposterous for anyone to assume that they should make that decision for anyone else.

    More on topic: Korean Air’s decision may be legal, but it seems a bit shortsighted. Perhaps they forgot to modify the internet filter’s default settings, but it’s still pretty old school. Blocking access to porn makes senses. Blocking legitimate gay related websites feels so last century…

  19. Kris has it absolutely right. It’s shameful that they do this, but their choice. As far as Ben’s private life, it’s nobody’s damn business. He’s already sharing an awful lot more than most people have the guts to publicize. Do we really have to stuff our noses even further into his life? Through speculation, no less? He deserves better.

  20. I have to agree with the other posters that this likely has more to do with the default settings of the filter they have on their network and not any proactive decision by the airline. I’ve actually come across this before several times here in the US (including workplace networks!).

  21. @gilbert well said; some of these comments are bizarre. As for Korean Air, I’m surprised the rep couldn’t do more than shrug their shoulders when asked- disappointing. No matter whether it’s Korean Air’s fault or the software, I hope Ben’s post helps publicize this so the public can weigh in- this is happening on our soil.

  22. While some may be appalled by the filtering, it is likely default settings at issue. The filtering can be easily circumvented by using one of the thousands of VPN services available or utilizing any of the US carriers 3G/4G solutions.

    That being said, this is a private company providing a free service for their customers – no one is forced to use it.

  23. I agree with Troy. I think there is a high likelihood this is caused by IT incompetence rather than someone singling out groups to be blocked for political, social, racial, or whatever reasons. IT competence for airlines seems to be a challenge anyway.

  24. Dude, there are 4 power outlets in the photo immediately under the complaint about no power outlets.

    And I sure hope you’re gay, because you’re too cute to be straight. 😉

  25. While the commenters who noted that the likely culprit is the default content-blocking settings, I have to call BS on a lot of the commenters that are coming close to saying that the lounge has “the right” to discriminate if they want to. An international airline lounge is NOT a private club, its a place of public accommodation. Most people gain entry by purchasing a business or first class ticket or as a reward for status. Anyone can gain access through those means if they want to and as a result the lounge wouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against gay people (at least in NYC, which I think has laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. I do get that restricting access to certain websites is not discrimination against gay people, but I just had to comment because a lot of other commenters on here were coming perilously close to that fake libertarian garbage that people have the right to discriminate.

  26. You are off base. It is illegal for gays in the Us to have the same rights as straight people (but then again you use citizenahip for convenience purposes only) so its their lounge they can do what they want. Maybe they have a lot of risk averse, introverted, social consercatives from Florida goig to a focus on the family convention just outside Frankfurt?

    I love how you dont like to take a position and ask your readers to decide for you (kickstarter campaign comes to mind).

    Good leadership is sticking to your principles through and through and say I believe I should do/get x because of the followig reason. this is taught at florida state.

  27. This is indeed truly appalling, a violation of fundamental rights and just plain dehumanizing. In this day and age it is inconceivable that anyone would be so ignorant as to attempt to implement such a backward policy, particularly in such a civilized, cosmopolitan place. We must launch a campaign to correct this horrific injustice, so that never again will a traveler be denied access to an LH lounge while traveling on a Star Alliance business class ticket.

  28. The “rules” at the LH Lounge and website both require that entrants be on a revenue ticket. Could it be that you were denied entry based on strict enforcement of a “no awards ticket” policy?

  29. Besides, I am pretty sure Ben is at least *A Gold… And I did spot the *A Gold logo on that sign, next to the “First Class” wording…

    So according to StarAlliance’s own website:

    “Star Alliance Gold Customers Travelling in Any Class
    Customers have access to any Star Alliance member carriers’ owned lounges with the Star Alliance Gold logo at the entrance.
    Customer must present proof of Star Alliance Gold level status via a valid frequent flyer program Star Alliance Gold level card or other valid indication of Star Alliance Gold level status
    Customer must also present a boarding pass for travel on a Star Alliance flight departing from the local airport
    Customer is entitled to one guest
    United Star Alliance Gold customers may only access the United Clubs within the U.S. when travelling in conjunction with a Star Alliance international flight.”

  30. I can’t stop laughing at the fact that you said “First of all, I don’t think the lounge has a single power outlet in the whole damn thing, despite having seating for well over a hundred people.”

    And then your first pic has 4 power outlets in it…3 unused.

  31. @Rob: I agree, truly appalling indeed–denied access to LH lounge is unjustifiable. We need to stop this before they roll out this backward policy at their hubs in FRA and MUC! 😉

  32. I am the only person who noticed that after the “no power outlets in the entire lounge” comment, that the first picture is of 4 outlets?? 🙂

  33. @ Troy — But with the text explaining the reason the way it did, is that really a default setting in the US? Haven’t ever seen that before.

  34. @ Danny — Not sure what I’m lying about? I’m gay, but I was actually searching for bar recommendations for a friend, so…?

  35. @ FlyingDoctorWu — Hmmm, tech isn’t my strong suit, so unfortunately didn’t check. 🙁

  36. @ Mike — So I should plug in my laptop right by the food service area? Those seemed to be about the only ones in the lounge, heh.

  37. @ colleen — Revenue ticket simply means that it’s not an industrial/comp ticket. Award tickets qualify as revenue tickets for the purpose of lounge access.

  38. I know it may sound offensive, but I think people from western world should also respect customs of other countries. Aparrantely, the LGBT thing is really sensitive in Asian countries,as many Asian people consider the lifestyle of LGBT communities as “moral corrupted”. ( I guess mainly because images of gay pride make many Asian people uncomfortable.) So far, gay marriage is still illegal/not recognized in almost every Asian country.(Israel is obviously in Europe). As a public company, I don’t think it is wrong for Korean Air to put public interest first, as many of their lounge guests, especially those older Asian business people wearing suit and tie, may feel insulted when they found out someone is viewing gay related image. To them, it is basically like seeing someone is watching porn using public library computer.
    No offense, but please respect the custom of other countries. Just because it is reasonable for American doesn’t imply it is reasonable for rest of the world. As much as I respect LGBT communities in United States, I believe I also have rights to feel whatever makes me comfortable in countries where LGBT marriage is illegal.

  39. @Lee Kai: We have no problem respecting other cultures, but perhaps you should follow your own advice. Respect cuts both ways.

    This is an airline lounge on New York City (JFK), not in Asia. And New York State has laws about LGBT discrimination in public accommodations. Not sure this rises to the level of discrimination, but spare us your “the gays are pushing their agenda in our face” argument. If Korean Air does business in the United States (or the state of New York), it must follow local laws, the same way that American or European companies must follow local laws in Asia, Africa, or wherever they do business.

    Besides, you are the first person to inject marriage equality into this discussion.

  40. @Lee Kai
    This happened in NY and there is a law called SONDA (u can google it). No offense but respect the custom of NY State and USA. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is against the law in this part of the world.

  41. @Carlo Most of East Asian countries are not anti-gay, even including communist China. However, many Asian people hope LGBT community keep silent. The Gay pride is especially offensive to many Asian people because of customes of gays and unconventional lifestyles gays try to promote. Traditional family meaning a lot to Asian people. If you can’t settle down, have a child and form a family before 35, you are basically considered to be an “odd” by people around you. Unfortunately, everything LGBT community is trying to promote are against such value.
    Again, I respect American LGBT community. But please also respect the culture and custom of Asian countries. We are friendly to our guests, no matter where you come from and what’s your background. But please, don’t tell us what we should do. The situation in Asia is more complicated. Legalize gay marriage will cause lots of troubles to our societies, especially to countries like Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, where military service is mandatory. Also, in Asia particular, gays cause AIDs.

  42. @Lee Kai:

    As a gay man of Asian descent with French and American citizenships who has traveled the world and welcomed countless exchange students into the home my American husband and I share in Texas, I know more that most about respecting the differences in our many cultures. My parents accept my non-Asian male husband, as does the rest of my extended family. Would you do the same for your own child?

    My moral compass is the Golden Rule. Everything else is merely posturing…


  43. It would be interesting to see what else they block. I know at some places I used to work at they blocked LGBT, gambling, adult, & social media websites (or pretty much anything that would be a distraction from work I guess.) I forget which country I was in but the McDonald’s wifi blocked any website they deemed non-children friendly (which included gambling and lgbt sites.)

    The lounges at Terminal 1 are all so-so. I’ve been to the JAL lounge and AF lounge there at Terminal 1 and both lounges served mediocre food; meaning the food served in the air was a lot better.

    I didn’t realize LOT had to have a contract with LH for its flyers to use the LH lounge. I figured if you’re flying any star alliance carrier you would have been fine to get in the LH lounge.

  44. @Joey:

    “I didn’t realize LOT had to have a contract with LH for its flyers to use the LH lounge. I figured if you’re flying any star alliance carrier you would have been fine to get in the LH lounge.”

    I agree that it sounds incompatible with the Star Alliance rules on lounge access…

  45. The policy is not only morally wrong (and gay relationships are not illegal in South Korea, outside of the military), but an extremely poor business decision as according to a survey conducted by Community Marketing Inc. found that gay and lesbian travelers spend an average of 57 percent more on their travels than their heterosexual counterparts.

    To my knowledge the only Web sites blocked in South Korea are those considered to be favorable to North Korea.

    Perhaps with the help of GLAAD or ILGTA this could be brought to the attention of Korean Air’s US management (if they haven’t already read this blog post), asking them to correct it. If they then refuse to do so and confirm this as their stated policy, then I would publicize it as being morally wrong and offensive.

  46. Good for KE.
    They have the right to refuse service to gay sites.
    You also have the right to avoid them, and I hope you do so.
    It leaves more seats available for me.

  47. My suggestion, find the facts before you post to your blog. You have many followers and you are influential in this space which has indirectly resulted in folks being fired. My first suspicion would be similar to Gary’s and Troy’s in that they installed a filter and left the defaults active. From this perspective there is no reason to feel offended and instead help them improve their product.

  48. This is not the first time I read about Lufthansa not allowing guests into their lounges that should have access. For example in Munich there have been many cases of Turkish Airlines Guests not allowed entry into their Lounges, because Lufthansa sees Turkish as a competitor in the important Asia market. Also once directly behind me were two travellers with the gold status of Aegean and they were not granted access because “the status is too easy to obtain”

  49. Really? This is 2014 and the lounge is located in USA which last time I checked had freedom of speech! They should be ashamed and all the airlines who utilize this lounge should have some serious concerns.

  50. Frank in Stein moment! Being gay in Sth Korea, technically it’s not against the law but the law has no protect for gays etc…All males are crafted into their military and this is mainly where the suicides, bashings and other absue takes place.

  51. Something similar happened to me in the AA lounge in SCL (Santiago, Chile) on June 12. When I tried to open a Facebook link to Out.com, I got the following message:

    “The website you want to visit is blocked by company policy.”

    I found it so offensive I took a screenshot, I think I’ll tweet it to American Airlines.

  52. All the folks defending the private rights of corporations to discriminate make me laugh. The lounge is in a public airport, and is only given the privilege to operate at the pleasure of the people. Would you feel the same way if an Etihad/Emirates/Qatar/Saudia lounge mandated a strict dress code for women?

  53. @lucky – “@ Mike — So I should plug in my laptop right by the food service area? Those seemed to be about the only ones in the lounge, heh.”

    Perhaps they would get the hint to add more power outlets if you just plop your laptop down on a tray of salmon to get online and check email 🙂

    @iv – you’re absolutely right – this IS the US, freedom of speech means freedom of speech for EVERYONE, not just those for who you agree. If KAL wants to institute filters on their internet connection, they are certainly entitled to block whatever they want. Users are certainly free not to use it.

    On a totally unrelated side note, I’m surprised that ANYONE connects to an open wifi ap these days without immediately using a VPN service. Especially at an Airport, Hotel or coffee shop – not only are you at serious risk of losing any information that you have on said PC, but some companies use their “free” wifi for tracking purposes – do you think Target or Home Depot give you wifi because it brings in shoppers? Nope – it’s because they can use packages like Euclid analytics to track your movements and determine when you were last in the store, airport, or hotel, where you move around when you shop, even if you are just walking by the store and don’t even go in… free wifi, like freedom is not free…

  54. My error, it was the EZE (Buenos Aires) AA lounge, June 18, 2014. We just tweeted AA.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Something similar happened to me in the AA lounge in EZE (Buenos Aires) on June 18. When I tried to open a Facebook link to Out.com, I got the following message:

    “The website you want to visit is blocked by company policy.”

    I found it so offensive I took a screenshot, I think I’ll tweet it to American Airlines.

  55. As an aside, the lounge really is rather janky.

    When I was in TK F (the tricked out one they wetleased from Jet), it was the contract lounge for TK F.

    It was a late afternoon flight and they seemed to have done nothing to refresh it from the morning Korean flight – there was still a picked over platter of danishes.

    I made haste to the Senator lounge, relying on my *A gold.

  56. Not sure why this is such a big deal. It’s not like gays or lesbians or being barred from using the internet. It’s not like you were barred from entering the lounge. SONDA does not apply here so take your internet law degree elsewhere. So you can’t go to certain websites…is it really that big of a deal?

    Korean Air doesn’t care about any of your complaints. I would guess most of you have never even bought a ticket through Korean Air. Most of you don’t even use Korean Air miles for your award tickets. Why is this relevant? Because Korean Air has to cater to their revenue-generating customers (Korean businessmen) and for the older generations, homosexuality is considered morally wrong. Agree or disagree but that’s what they believe and they are entitled to believe that way. As someone who has lived in Korea for half his life, I can tell you that there are a lot of comments on here that are patently false.

    Does anyone know if the LX lounge at JFK censors the same type of sites?

    For those of you bashing Korean Air, I’m sure you’ll continue to frequent Walmart to load BB and buy MOs. I’m sure you’ll continue to purchase your Apple products. I’m sure you’ll continue to buy your clothes that were made by children in Southeast Asia. How is this relevant? You turn a blind eye to egregious human rights violations but throw a fit when you can’t visit a couple of websites in a business class airport lounge. Get off your high horse. Bunch of hypocrites.

    Please boycott Korean Air. In fact, boycott all Skyteam partners. I have plenty of KE and DL miles I need to redeem.

  57. While this is obviously appalling, at the end of the day what would you expect from a lounge geared towards the most backward and racist countries in the world? Poor service and racism, maybe the answer is not to fly to these countries to start with (mainly Russia and Saudi Arabia), unfortunately LOT passengers should probably have access to the Star Alliance first world lounge run by Lufthansa and Swiss….

  58. The LGBT thing is a bit of a furphy, even if it is offensive that LGBT sites are blocked. The sites that Lucky was trying to access are in no way offensive. It’s not like he was trying to access pornography (or watch an episode of game of thrones for that matter). Even if you were the most sensitive flower of a Neanderthal homophobe you’d’ have to be looking right over Lucky’s shoulder to know what he was accessing.

    Now if you were sitting next to a minor on the plane watching porn or game of thrones (both of which I’ve witnessed ) then there is probably an argument for restricting that behaviour.

    At the end of the day KAL should not be restricting non-offensive material and really they should ask themselves if their customers are so poorly behaved they can’t restrain themselves from accessing content that is A) offensive and B) displayed visibly enough to offend anyone.

    I’ll agree that the filtering software is poorly configured, most default settings for this kind of software 99% blocks false positives. I’m just not sure that filtering software is in any way necessary.

  59. They have the right to block any websites they want, and you have the right to never fly Korean Air again if you choose.

  60. Yay – I have a shot with Lucky!

    More seriously, good for you for saying something. It may not change the policy, but it will affect your perception of the company and your business with them going forward.

  61. As others mentioned, why couldn’t Lucky just have used the Senator Lounge with Star Gold? I’m sure he must’ve taken advantage of some Gold statusmatch when Diamond Club exited Star Alliance.

  62. Every time I feel like maybe the world is making a bit of progress, I hear about some new nonsense like this. And then I read the comments from readers who think this kind of discrimination and homophobia is just fine. I imagine this is far from the worst discrimination encountered by gay international travelers, but it’s bizarre and disheartening to see it happen right here in 2014. Good for you for following up on this bullshit.

  63. I was just surfing here anxiously looking to see if the next credit card post is up yet 🙂

    It is 2014. Apple’s CEO just marched in Pride Parade with Apple LGBT employees. Whatever.

  64. There have been many quick societal chages in the US recently.

    Tha part that makes me sad is what seems to be the intolerant demand for tolerance.

  65. @kevin… with free speech you shouldn’t be blocking ANY websites. You should be free to view any site either gay or anti-gay. Since when is Korean Air the moral authority of the internet?

  66. This is a genuinely great post. My new lounge travel game will be seeing whether gay culture-related sites will be blocked. Applause for speaking with the lounge agent and making this post.

  67. As a gay guy I am deeply offended. Ouch, didn’t know my orientation is a ‘lifestyle’ that I have chosen.
    Thank God I have had no flown on them and have no desire to do so.

  68. The Maple Leaf Lounge in Toronto blocks americanapparel.net as Porn. While I find it odd these sites are blocked regardless of porn, gay, or any other reason; I guess it is the right of the supplier to have their own filters. We don’t need to agree with their reasoning but I doubt we will get anywhere trying to change their position on the filters.

  69. Substitute “Black/African American” websites for LGBT and see how your “they have a right”/”don’t want to offend conservative customers” arguments hold up. American location, Polish Airline, Korean lounge – maybe they need to stop applying local thinking to a global issue.

  70. I know this is off topic but I flown LOT last week out of JFK & was directed to use the LH lounge….

  71. @LeeKai

    With all due respect, hoping that gay people shut up and don’t stand up for their rights is pretty anti-gay. Plenty of gay people “promote” a “traditional lifestyle” by marrying, settling down and having children, many even by the advanced age of 35! I am a straight woman and it is highly unlikely that my life will follow that trajectory; I have no desire for children, for one. Many gay people don’t marry and settle down but many do. The same can be said for straight people. It’s not really accurate anymore to insist that gays aren’t interested in having families.

    Plenty of countries allow openly gay people to serve in their militaries (including Israel, which requires everyone (male and female!) to serve while young) and it hasn’t caused any serious problems that I know of. A few people here and there might be resistant but by and large it is a non-issue.

    Furthermore, while AIDS may be more common among gay and bisexual men, it is LESS common among gay women than in the population at large. And gay men do not “cause AIDS,” it is caused by the HIV virus. Gay men are more likely to contract the HIV virus, thanks to various risk factors, but when there are public health campaigns that acknowledge this and encourage them to practice safer-sex, rates go down. Pretending gays don’t exist doesn’t help stop the spread of AIDS; it encourages men to live in the closet, not get tested and possibly pass the virus onto their unsuspecting female partners. If AIDS among gays in Asia is more common than among gays in the West, I’d bet it’s because they’re hiding, not because Asian gay men are biologically different somehow.

    In any case, Lucky isn’t complaining that he was standing on a street corner in Asia making out with his boyfriend and being harassed (which, perhaps, could be seen as culturally insensitive). He was in an airport lounge, in the USA, surfing the internet on his private computer. The sites he was trying to access are non-controversial and human-rights oriented. If he found that naacp.org was similarly blocked would people have any question that something was wrong? It’s the same thing. No, really. It is.

  72. I’m definitely on Lucky’s side in this argument. There are certain things that you just have to stand up against, and discrimination is one of them. Just as you wouldn’t be able to justify it if a website was blocked “Reason: Race – Web pages that cater to or discuss an inferior race”, I don’t see why you can justify someone blocking any website because it caters to a non-heterosexual community.

    It is also inappropriate to bring pornography into this, because those websites aren’t pornographic in nature anyway.

    I am all about embracing and respecting different cultures, and am thankful that as an immigrant, has been accepted into a community. There are indeed Asian countries that aren’t as yet accepting of LGBT communities, and we are not trying to change their values. What we should be doing is to push for the elimination of discrimination against these LGBT communities, and not acceptance. As long as they don’t interfere with the private lives of non-heterosexual people, and allow them the same freedoms, then there is no problem.

    Oh, and Lucky, that was brave of you! 🙂

  73. As a lot of you (mainly LBGT) are discussing to boycott KE, you should add SQ to the list, as they are the flag carrier of Singapore. Travelers taking trips to and from Singapore, they should be aware that LBGT is strictly prohibited.

    As for the restricted access to certain sites, it may be simply a default setting of the network as many has alluded to, or simply KE trying to make it as non offensive as possible to the greatest number of guests.

  74. After reading all of the false information re Asians/Arabs in the comments here, I decided to look for other instances of airport lounge internet filtering. Came across this:


    So before you continue with the Asians/Arabs are narrow-minded, backwards thinking people theme, keep in mind the FT thread is from 2011/2012 and is about the Qantas lounge in Sydney.

    It’s ironic that people who complain about alleged discrimination against homosexuals will make blanket statements about an entire race/religion in the same breath. And to say that America is the most progressive country when it comes to equality is laughable. We’ve never had a female president. We’ve had one Black president. Our Congress is nowhere near reflective of the racial makeup of our general population. America invented racism and continues to fine-tune it everyday. I don’t see any of you hypocrites throwing your hands up over any of these injustices. But you can’t access a few websites from an airport lounge and that’s what you find so offensive. Get off your high horse. You don’t know what real discrimination is until you’ve lived a day as a person of color.

  75. Are you sure that was not Air Koryo’s lounge? I understand sites that have sexual content , so say it so. But GLAAD or other sites that are basically political stuff?

    A silly filter I am sure. Complain to NY Port Authority and who else but GLAAD. It will be change soon.

    This is the US not Korea or Saudi Arabia. And yes dont block Al Jazeera either Mr Faux News !

  76. This surprises me but I agree with the Saudia angle as well. I’ve be to South Korea a few times and never experienced this type restriction on the flow of information.

  77. Yet again, Korean Air manages to embroil themselves in controversy…

    Happens every year. Back in 2011 there was the cancer patient incident at SEA as well as the Palau mistake fare controversy, in 2012 there was the Kenya advertising controversy, last year there was the incident when KE staff publicly revealed the identity of an unruly passenger, and now this…

    Anyways, Korean ISPs don’t block gay-related websites, unless if it’s a porn site without an age verification system.

    And I’m proud of you Lucky. I’ve always had a crush on you and I’m so happy to know you’re on our side 😉

  78. Well, on the simple problem: there are outlets between the seats next to the windows, at floor level. They are hard to find, and few and far between, but they are there.

    The outlets in the food service area tend to be filled with phone chargers right before flights.

    And….it seems to be incompetence rather than discrimination, since I have access to just about any website in the Korean Air lounge in Busan.

    In spite of this being the world’s most wired country, most people are really clueless about how things work, and tend to just follow the standard settings. I can understand why Korean Air wants a web filter on their wifi in New York, (Something about businessmen before a long flight….) and I imagine that they just had someone install one, and never thought about what the default settings would be.

    And, just to chime in on the other topic, who really cares? I like Lucky’s writing, I like his take on hotels, but I don’t plan on marrying him to fictional daughter.

  79. Have you considered contacting the airport? After all, they hold the lease…. Good for you raising this social justice issue.

  80. @Lucky,

    Wow, some shady haters responding. “So Nasty, and so Rude!…(repeat)” #JealousKenyas #KoreanLoungesRTheWorst #ByeByeHaters

  81. Oh Benny Boy,

    this comes close to a public outing now. Finally you decided to stick to yr sexuality and do not always hide it under the too warm LH F blanket.

    I do bet that you wanted to rub ya one watching some gay porn on xtube. While it is understandable that everybody has to satisfy his needs, nobody understands why it has to be in a lounge, where all people can watch ya? Seems like u like the thrill to show people yr little benny boy *broken wrist*

    Next time take a flight to Croatia and relax on the nude beaches there and if the horny feeling once again overcomes you, then raise a flag and 100s of gays will blow little benny boy 😉

  82. @KE Flyer, not sure why you think American’s invented racism? Does it exist in America? Yes. Were they the first country to have racism? Absolutely not. America is only 239 years old. Racism existed long before America did. I am from the US but currently living in Europe and I have witnessed racism more in the 4 months I’ve lived in Europe than at any point of living in America. I believe the US media blows racism out of proportion and again only shows one side of it (i.e. racism of whites against blacks). In Europe I have been around people saying ‘I feel sorry for where you live, there are so many black people there’ or ‘what is it liking being among Arabs in that city?’ or ‘I can’t believe they come here and take our jobs.’

    I have been blown away from their hypocritical views of saying America is racist but then they next thing out of their mouth is something racist against the people in their own country/city.

    Also, people in general I feel are more sensitive today than they have ever been. Why can we not have a discussion about hot-topic issues without either side throwing out hate comments? Since when does everyone have to believe what everyone else does? If we all had the same beliefs and convictions life would be pretty boring wouldn’t it??

    People should not need to change their beliefs/convictions just to be accepted by people. But people do need to be open to other view points, but being open to other view points does not mean you have to follow those view points nor accept them. It’s called agreeing to disagree.

  83. @ Lucky. The easiest way to figure out if you’re on a foreign VPN is to look at the ads that are coming through. When I was at SAS they were all in a language I didn’t recognize…..


  84. Lifestyle? Really?! I’m glad Korean isn’t in my alliance so I never have to worry about being tempted to fly them. Appalling and disgusting.

  85. Ben I leave for a weekend and miss the coming out party? Wow, congrats! You have given us enough hints over the years and thanks for confirming during Pride month. That makes me proud of you and happy to know we share more than just a love of flying. 😉

  86. I’m on Lucky’s side with this issue.
    To be clear, I am a Asian myself, and I am not a gay. However, people should respect to other’s lifestyles. It makes no sense to discriminate gay people. As a Chinese, I do respect the Chinese tradition view of family and other stuff, and I will also follow this tradition. But does this tradition says “we cannot bear gay people”? It is just the diversity of the society, and I firmly believe that EVERY society needs different opinions. If one does not allow different ideas in a society, he/she should go to North Korea.
    Freedom of speech is the most fundamental right of a human, so it is ridiculous to block some websites just because this website does not “cater to” your opinion.
    Korean Air definitely should explain why this kind of thing can happen. This is a direct violation of the most basic human rights.

  87. The blocking is a bit ridiculous… but maybe not as much as some of these comments! Love and acceptance shall conquer. Avid reader and fan, congrats on “electronically coming out” today…. ha!

  88. Asian i.e. Chinese / Indian / Korean culture has traditionally never, ever, discriminated against gays. It is imported Western culture i.e. Christianity that has turned their loud-mouth Asian converts to become anti-gay. And these religious zealots have the cheek to claim “traditional Asian values” as their allies!

    China, for example, has emperors who were gays, literatures that openly celebrate (not just condone) homosexuality over literally thousands of years. Likewise, in India, homosexuality are explicitly celebrated in publications similar to the Kama Sutra. And Korea, Japan etc which got their chopsticks, chinese written characters, and other cultural stuff from China are likewise pro-gay, for thousands of years.

    All these changed when Christian evangelist came. Today, Korean population is >50% Christians and they are the most vocal against gays. Likewise in Singapore. You can google “Pink Dot” and “Singapore” and read about how this pastor Lawrence Kong rallied his congregation against gays, and yes, he too, hid behind “Asian traditional values”. The Catholic Church and the Islamic Council issued anti-gay statements, and yes, they too cited “Asian traditional values”. But, guess what, Buddhists and Taoists, which comprise more than 70% of the population, did not join in the gay-bashing. Why? Because Asian traditional religion and cultures are NOT anti-gay!

    So, if any of you here (eg. Lee Kai?) is anti-gay, please have the moral courage to stand up on your own – do not hide behind “Asian traditional values” – your discrimination has to do with the influence of western religion (even if you yourself is not a Christian fundamentalist) on Asian societies, much as hollywood’s influence is everywhere in Asia (even if you are not a fan of hollywood movies).

  89. @ Asian Traditional Values:

    As a World History teacher (and history geek), I endorse the accuracy of your post.

    As a gay man living with a foot in many cultures (can you say triple minority), I can vouch for the fact that those who drop the term Traditional and/or Family Values are only using time-honored code words for engrained prejudice.

    Because something has been done for over 2,000 years, or under 20 minutes does not make it right.

    As for Ben’s unscripted coming-out announcement, I am happy for him. I may have had my doubts over the years (I met the 15-year old Lucky when he and his dad joined our DC FTers for a meet up), however I always felt that if he wanted to discuss his personal life with me, it was his decision to make, not mine. Since my husband and I drive his dad and him around town that night, my sexual orientation was never a secret.

    I hope you know Ben that there are many, many people out there who will keep loving you and who truly enjoy your passion for what you do so well. We need more enterprising, passionate, funny, entertaining, empathetic, caring, and yes, even geekishly funny people in this world. We will continue to support your endeavors, so long as you remain the charming person that you are.

    Consider us the lucky ones…

    Gilbert (aka dcgators on FT)

  90. Lucky, will you supply a post that’s like “live” after your flight on LOT giving your first impressions (like the LOT to be desired post)?

  91. I’m guessing the internet access was no worse than at the St. Regis in Abu Dhabi:).

    Source: I live in the UAE.

  92. Just the other day I was in a FRA Senator lounge where I oversaw an Asian-looking gentleman looking at some nasty-ass (straight) porn on his computer…
    So much for the moral standards of Asians!
    I say whatever rocks your boat, ladies and gentlemen – but do be a little mindful of not getting too excited about the lounge wifi!
    And yes, now I do have a crush on Lucky, too 🙂

  93. ha,
    you got the shorter end of the stick. I have travelled at least 4 times out of there with LOT and every single time I was let in the LH lounge no problem. Seems they were full and or borred and did not like your face or something and just made that bs up…

  94. I also strongly suspect that the blocking of gay websites is just a technical oversight; though I can’t rule out some arm-twisting on Aeroflot’s part given Russia’s (and I’m speaking as an out & proud Russian) barbaric “gay propoganda” law. An earlier post correctly called out the ‘fake libertarian’ crowd and this ‘I support KE’s right to censor…’ bullsh!t.

    However, this post is mainly to give my support and thanks to Lucky. I stumbled upon One Mile at a Time about a year ago while I was recuperating from a nasty skiing accident. (A tip: skiing in the Chilean Andes is NOT for the timid novice) I have been addicted to Lucky’s blog ever since, even though I really have no interest in mileage or awards programs. I pratically commute between the US and Jeddah so I rather just stay home in my downtime.

    Lucky does a great job. I enjoy his posts. His blog is a terrific spot for commercial aviation geeks like myself. And he seems like a legitimately nice guy. Thanks, Lucky. I just had to say this given some of the bizarrely hateful comments left here.

    And I am PROUD to have been a supporter of Lucky’s Kickstarter campaign. I wish I could have gotten a postcard from Abu Dhabi.

  95. Very sad situation but happy to hear you posting and talking about discrimination. think this helps more ppl to accept and respect and make sexual orientation a more natural topic just the way u did replying a very rude commet. Now im even more fan of u! And i feel sorry for some unrespectfull ppl in the comments

  96. I am absolutely appalled by this, and almost equally appalled by those who seem to feel that because Korean is a private airline, they have the choice to do what they want’. Even private businesses do NOT have the right to discriminate against a group of people. Lucky, have you contacted/tweeted the higher ups at Korean Airlines ? Port Authority?

    On a tangential note, I don’t like the word gay ‘lifestyle’.

  97. @droopy – now now less incompetent IT people talk. More less direction from management. I would imagine the project was simply to filter internet access and block anything objectionable. With this particular filtering software its simple ticking boxes of categories to block.

    I know alot of filtering bundles LGBT etc under adult content. In fact I most likely have unintentionally blocked sites like these on previous deployments.

    @Lucky – yes that message is spot on for what you would expect to receive. As its category based filtering, the messages are semi generic as to the reason its been blocked.

    I think the more important issue is the lack of acknowledgement of the issue and suitable escalation procedure for dealing with this issue. I would guess most people would tend to shrug their shoulders and not think much of it. In this instance its quite a controversial topic, thus its getting alot of attention.

  98. It’s funny how a gay population that comprises less than 10% of US population tries to dictate what the other >90% should do.

  99. @ Sam:

    It’s funny how some have not yet grabbed the concept that in a republic, the rights of minority (no matter how small) must be preserved from the oppression of the majority (no matter how large). The idea that the majority rules absolutely in our country is a fallacy, since we do not live in a democracy, but in a constitutional republic.

    Even the 10th graders I teach understand that concept by the time I am done teaching social studies to them. So why can’t adults remember their basic civics lessons?

  100. To answer your question directly, Lucky, my view is the answer is “no” it is not appropriate for a US lounge to make content based internet blocking decisions base on their guess about the “lifestyle” to which the site is viewed by some invisible person to “cater” to. Permitted? Legal? Dunno. I do feel pretty confident that the uber Constitutional scholars posting in these comments would not be my go-to source on those answers. But answering the question you asked, my vote is no.

    Hopefully, the day when such decisions are no longer made in airplane lounges and similar places is fast approaching.

    So too, I hope, is the day where commenting about travel bloggers based on the arrangement of the chromosomes of those to whom they are attracted as though it makes a bit of difference for anything is viewed as fair game.

  101. At the very least, people should be Tweeting KE to ask them to explain this. I’m incredulous that they still haven’t responded to this post on the blog.

  102. Lucky: I am really said to read some of the comments people left here in this post. I know you are totally open to give people the freedom to express and write whatever they want in you blog but maybe it is time for you to re-think on that strategy. There are some posts here full of hate and disrespectful comments should not have space in this amazing blog. Sorry that there are still people that use words to say whatever they want but I am sure these same people would not be mature enough to say what they write face to face. This blog is an amazing place for people to learn and enjoy a great reading about travel and you are simply the best in what you do. I couldn’t care less about your ethnicity, sexual preference, height, weight, whatever…. You respect everyone in your blog and you should be respected. Sorry about that.

    Regarding the block of some websites I would not blame Korean immediately. I am pretty sure they use software that filter internet access and they may have some default settings that are probably too broad. I worked in some companies that software would block sites that had nothing to do with what they wanted to block. Hope their IT revisits the rules and give people access to content that should not be blocked.

  103. Regardless of how the filter materialized, shame on Korean Air for allowing it in their lounge. Thank you for bringing this to light. The next step is up to them.

  104. @ KE Flyer
    “For those of you bashing Korean Air, I’m sure you’ll continue to frequent Walmart to load BB and buy MOs. I’m sure you’ll continue to purchase your Apple products. I’m sure you’ll continue to buy your clothes that were made by children in Southeast Asia. How is this relevant? You turn a blind eye to egregious human rights violations but throw a fit when you can’t visit a couple of websites in a business class airport lounge. Get off your high horse. Bunch of hypocrites.”

    KE Flyer you left out the best example you could have used – the contribution of air travel to climate change. There is a snowballs chance in hell any of these people raising a stink here are going to give up their non-essential air travel. What you will get, if they even bother to reflect on the issue at all, is an intellectually embarrassing list of rationalizations that guarantee they are going to ignore the fundamental crisis of our time. Put simply, lets keep a little perspective here; what good are gay rights if the planet is uninhabitable?

  105. Lucky – congratulations on coming out! The unfortunate hateful comments on this very post prove how much hatred and prejudice is still out there, so it was a brave thing for you to do. And to all the anti-gay Neanderthals who posted bigoted comments on this thread, [email protected]#$ you. You are a dying bunch of dinosaurs, and I look forward to the day when your views are confined to the dustbin of history.

  106. I wish this were posted two days ago. We were at the como maalifushi in the Maldives and I was trying to check on the wsop and every poker site was blocked. I would’ve checked a gay site had I thought of it and asked management to adjust the filter lest they send the wrong message.

  107. Sam says “It’s funny how a gay population that comprises less than 10% of US population tries to dictate what the other >90% should do.”

    The only way that comment would make any sense is if gay people were trying to force GLAAD as the default home page for everyone. Last I heard they were simply asking for non-pornographic social websites to be allowed through a web filter. See the difference?

  108. Korean Air posted the following comment today on their Facebook page:

    Korean Air: “We have contacted the lounge internet provider and the settings have since been adjusted and the issue has been resolved. Thank you.”

  109. Dang, someone beat me to it. Through Twitter: “We’ve checked with our lounge internet provider & fixed the issue. Thank you. /JN”

  110. Did you ever find any more info out? I find this odd because I’ve visited the KAL business and first class lounges several times in ICN and have always been able to access gay themed sites and apps.

  111. Complain to NYC Human Rights Commission. Let them do an investigation. Complain to Korean Air that they are catering to the same [expletive deleted] whose nationals destroyed the World Trade Center buildings on 9/11.

    It is unfathomable Korean Air supports such rabid discrimination.

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