When Leisha Hailey and her girlfriend kissed aboard a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles, they quickly found themselves in trouble.
A flight attendant told them that Southwest was “a family airline.” When they argued they were targets of homophobia, the attendant ejected them from the plane.
Hailey–the star of Showtime’s The L-Word (and a lesbian)–posted her experience on Twitter. Calling for a boycot of Southwest, she tweeted:
“I want to know what Southwest Airlines considers as ‘family.’ I know plenty of wonderful same-sex families I would like to introduce them to. Boycott @SouthwestAir if you are gay. They don’t like us.”
Naturally, Southwest had its own explanation for what had happened:
“…We received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive. Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight.”
In short, the situation was “better resolved on the ground” by forcing two unarmed, non-threatening women to leave the plane rather than having the airline honor their high-priced tickets.
Now, a quick question: When does a camera become a dangerous weapon?
When you snap a picture of an especially rude airline employee.
- A Miami photographer was escorted off a US Airways plane and deemed a “security risk” after she did this at Philadelphia International Airport in July, 2011.
Sandy DeWitt believed the employee, Tonialla G., was being rude to several passengers in the boarding area of the flight to Miami.
So DeWitt, a professional photographer, used her iPhone to snap a picture of G.’s nametag. She intended to file a complaint with US Airways and wanted the picture as evidence.
As DeWitt settled into her seat, preparing for take-off, G. entered the plane and confronted her.
She ordered DeWitt to delete the photo.
DeWitt had already turned off her iPhone, as required before take-off. She turned the phone back on to prove that the photo hadn’t come out. Even so, she deleted the too-dark picture.
G. then walked into the cockpit to inform the pilot that DeWitt was a “security risk.”
Suddenly, DeWitt found herself being escorted off the plane by two flight attendants. Her husband followed.
Speaking with Michael Lofton, a US Airways manager at Philadelphia International Airport, she learned that she would not be allowed back on the plane.
The reason: She was a “security risk.”
But that didn’t keep Lofton from directing her to American Airlines for a flight back to Miami.
But that flight had already departed and it was already after 7 p.m. And there were no other flights back to Miami until the following morning.
“We were expecting to spend the night at the airport,” she said.
They eventually boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to Fort Lauderdale at 11 p.m.
Apparently, Southwest didn’t consider her to be a “security risk.”
Naturally, US Airways had a cover-story to explain what had happened.
Todd Lehmacher, a spokesman for US Airways, told msnbc.com that DeWitt was removed for being “disruptive.”
“Once onboard, she was using foul and explicit language,” Lehmacher said. “She was removed at the request of the captain.”
Apparently, “disruptive” means whatever an airline official claims it to mean.
Business Insider ranked US Airways sixth in a list of the 19 Most Hated Companies in America.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is an economic indicator that measures the satisfaction of consumers across the United States. It is produced by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a private company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The ACSI interviews about 80,000 Americans annually and asks about their satisfaction with the goods and services they have consumed. And Americans’ most-hated companies include large banks, airlines, power and telecom companies.
David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI, offered a critical insight into why these companies are so detested.
“These are not terribly competitive industries, as the switching barriers for most of them are quite high,” he told Business Insider in June, 2011.
“In other industries, like the food or clothing sector, the competition is huge. They bend over backwards to make customers happy, because they have to.”
That certainly applies to airlines–whose numbers are limited and continue to shrink due to mergers and the rising cost of fuel.
For the airline industry generally, the former slogan of United Airlines–”Fly the Friendly Skies”–has unofficially been replaced with: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”
So–when you’re facing a would-be KGB agent masquerading as an airline employee, what do you do?
First, you recognize that the concept of “consumer rights” has not yet reached the airline industry.
Then you do what you can to see that it does.