James McDaniel says that he and his boyfriend were escorted off of a Southwest flight last month because they are gay.
Two passengers who were deplaned from a recent Southwest Airlines flight say that they were asked to leave the craft because of their sexual orientation, LGBTQ Nation reports. The incident occurred on December 22nd on an Atlanta-bound flight from Baltimore and involved James McDaniel and Hafsteinn Himinljómi Regínuson. The couple, from Iceland, were visiting McDaniel’s family in America at the time of the incident.
McDaniel explained what had happened in a Facebook post. “We boarded our flight to Atlanta on time and were getting cozy, glad to be on the last leg of our trip. Then, while we were sitting in our seats on the plane three police officers came onto the plane and told the two of us we had to leave immediately.”
Regínuson was then accused of throwing missiles at a member of cabin crew on a previous flight. McDaniel denied the accusation, but says that Regínuson was reduced to tears by the incident. McDaniel was able to defuse the situation and said that he and his boyfriend were able to leave the airport without being arrested. They made their way to Atlanta by train.
In an interview with GayIceland, US-born McDaniel, who has recently become an Icelandic citizen, said that he believes that the incident occurred as a result of discrimination. “The main difference between us and other passengers was that we were openly gay.”
However, in an official statement, a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines told Gay Star News, “According to our internal reports, flight attendants working the flight, along with some customers onboard the aircraft, expressed concerns about one customer’s unruly behavior prior to departure. Our ground operations employees followed guidelines and requested the customer exit the aircraft due to behavior that demonstrated signs of intoxication.”
The official clarified that the airline had offered to re-book the couple on another flight the following day, but that the pair had declined the offer.
The spokesperson also added that “we have no reports indicating this event involved any type of discrimination. Southwest Airlines is proud to support diversity in all forms as demonstrated among our 55,000+ employees.”