A gay couple claims that they were denied family boarding privileges during a recent flight with Southwest Airlines from Buffalo, New York to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Grant Morse, his husband, their three children, and the children's grandmother were on their way to Ft. Lauderdale when the group stepped in line for “family boarding” and were denied.
According to an interview with HuffPost, Morse claims that a Southwest gate agent told the gay couple, “This is for family boarding only.”
“We approached the... ‘family boarding area’ as we have done many times,” Morse told HuffPost. “The boarding agent assertively approached and said, ‘This is family boarding.’ My husband responded, ‘We know, we are a family.’ She said, ‘Not all can go. This is family boarding.’”
A Southwest spokesperson told HuffPost that Morse’s family was denied family boarding privileges because his husband’s mother, who is 83 and needs assistance, attempted to board with them.
While Southwest rules allow only one adult to board with children, the spokesperson said that “typically our employees allow both parents to board." The airline denied any discrimination against the family in a statement:
"Our Operations Agent informed two parents that another member of their group was ineligible to board under Family Boarding and asked that she board in her assigned boarding group. This conversation in the boarding area had nothing to do with discrimination, we welcomed both parents to board the aircraft with their children. The parents expressed disappointment that the Family Boarding policy was not applicable to another member of their group. The two parents did not agree with our policy, and our Flight Crew worked to save seats together on the aircraft for the family as the conversation continued in the gate area."
Morse shared that in the end, Southwest only allowed one of the fathers to board with the children, which forced the family to split up.
While Morse's mother-in-law sat in a row alone, one parent was seated with two of the children in one row, and the other with their third child in another row. Morse says the gate agents never attempted to explain to the family why they were divided and separated.
“Never once did they say, ‘You two fathers and you three kids can board, and grandma has to wait over there,’” Morse said. “I feel all they’re doing is trying to cover up discrimination right now.”
It's still TBD on whether Morse will decide to take Southwest to court over the incident, but he says that if he does, he'll be giving away any damages to charities.
“If an attorney tells me there’s a case, as of today I’ll probably move forward with it,” he said. “But I’ll make it clear that any proceeds will be donated to a charity to educate companies about prejudice. There’s no doubt in my mind this [incident] is discrimination.”
Morse says that he has yet to hear directly from Southwest about the disturbance, but he has written to the Department of Transportation, who informed Morse that they have instructed Southwest to contact Morse and include them in the message.