This airport drama is nonstop.
A man is taking legal action against Southwest Airlines after he and his family were denied family boarding privileges due to an employee allegedly discriminating against him for being gay.
Grant Morse was flying from Buffalo, New York to Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Samuel Ballachino, their three young children, and his 83-year-old mother on Saturday when a gate agent denied them family pre-boarding.
The traveler says his brood was “humiliated and embarrassed” when they approached the waiting area for families with young children, only to be thwarted by a female employee who refused to allow them to board early.
Morse said they explained multiple times that they were married spouses traveling with their biological children — but he maintains the gate attendant would still “not see us as a family.”
Eventually, the employee said one of the dads could board with the three children (all under 6 years old) while the other would wait with his elderly mother. But Morse said that task would have been “physically impossible” for a lone parent, telling BuzzFeed News:
“How can you expect one father to board three children under the age of 6, push three strollers, and a diaper bag at the same time? It’s physically impossible.”
Southwest’s policy states that “an adult traveling with a child 6 years old or younger may board during Family Boarding” — however, Morse finds the employee’s interpretation of that rule to be a bunch of “bullshit.” He questioned:
“Does that mean if you have six kids under 6 they’re only going to allow one adult on board? That’s bullshit. I always see during family boarding a mother and a father with one kid getting on board.”
Specifically, the father-of-three recalled seeing a heterosexual married couple boarding early with their child while he and his family were forced to wait.
They were eventually allowed on the plane during general boarding, but Morse claimed flight attendants had saved just four seats at the back of the plane for his family of six.
The airline denied allegations of discrimination against the family, telling the Huffington Post the agent was objecting to the husbands trying to board with the children’s grandmother. They said 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 said the airline’s defense was “100% not accurate,” noting he had filed complaints with the airline and the US Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division.
He is seeking a written apology from the airline’s CEO and a commitment to diversity training — and he wants that gate agent FIRED.
As for any financial compensation his family should receive, Morse said he would donate the money to anti-discrimination charities. He has yet to hear from any airline reps.
[Image via Grant Morse/Facebook.]