Players: Leisha Hailey, actress from Showtime's The L-Word and musician in the band Uh Huh Her; Southwest Airlines, often seen as America's fun, loveable, economic, and down-to-earth airline noted for its efficient seating process and humorous flight attendants
The Opening Serve: Hailey was kicked off of a Southwest flight yesterday for kissing her girlfriend, and unleashed a bevy of angry tweets describing her experience. "I have been discriminated against by @SouthwestAir. Flt. attendant said that it was a 'family' airline and kissing was not ok," wrote Hailey shortly before 3 p.m. yesterday. "This is an outrage. I demand a public apology by @SouthwestAir and a refund. Hate is not a family value. I will never fly this airline." She tweeted four more times in the next hour, one of which claiming she had video of the incident.
The Return Volley: Southwest issued a statement on their blog yesterday. "Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive," it reads. "Our crew...approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground...We regret any circumstance where a passenger does not have a positive experience on Southwest and we are ready to work directly with the passengers involved to offer our heartfelt apologies for falling short of their expectations." Hailey responded from her band's Twitter account. "I call for a boycott for @SouthwestAir for their intolerance. Period. Unacceptable. Keep hearing more stories of these incidences. Insane!" she wrote yesterday. "@SouthwestAir I didn't realize a small peck on the lips is regarded as excessive and never once did your stewardess mention other passengers." Hailey's tweets also caught the eye of Sandra Bernhard who is now joining Hailey's boycott. "@southwestair i want my tickets refunded from nyc to phoenix due to the @leisha_hailey situation &the unexplained arab symbols. today," Bernhard tweeted. "please return my managers calls today @southwestair i want a full refund on my upcoming ny-phoenix tickets, i do not want to fly with you."
What They Say They're Fighting About: What really happened on the airplane. Was it a peck? Something too lascivious for other passenger's eyes? Homophobic passengers overreacting?
What They're Really Fighting About: Southwest Airlines. The airline has built a brand and image on not "being like the other guys"--it prides itself on being a friendly, lovable (they use a heart with pilot wings as one of their logos) airline. Hailey believes Southwest isn't living up to its image. On Southwest's official website they state, "we are the official airline of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA), and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)." And even in their apology, Southwest is still maintaining their "loveable" image. They're offering "[their] heartfelt apologies for falling short of their expectations" for kicking someone off a plane.
Who's Winning Now: Hailey (and tangentially JetBlue, right?), but we're not advocating any serious necking on a plane, no matter your orientation or gender. Hailey is just the latest member of the "Kicked off of Southwest Club," whose members include Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day (for wearing saggy pants) and Kevin Smith (for being too big). Mind you, Southwest can kick even the non-famous off its planes for clothing or weight problems. And what about that pesky 'Arabic' invisible ink graffiti gaffe? Southwest's PR team now has to add "antigay" to the litany of problems they're trying to fix.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.