A gay couple traveling on Southwest Airlines over the weekend said they were discriminated against after they were denied the family pre-boarding option by a Southwest employee at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, WGRZ-TV reported.
Grant Morse, who is married to a man, was traveling to his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his husband and three young children when the family attempted to pre-board during what they thought was the appropriate time: family boarding.
According to Morse, a Southwest employee stopped them before they could board, explaining to him that they were not in the right place.
"This is for family boarding only," Morse recalled the gate attendant telling them.
"I feel as though we were profiled the minute we walked up the boarding area," Morse told WGRZ. "This gate agent immediately approached my spouse and said, 'This is for family boarding only,' and my spouse looked up and said, ‘Well, we are a family. It's myself, my spouse, and our three children.’ She said, 'It’s family boarding only,' and got very sarcastic."
A Southwest spokesperson told WGRZ that they had only just heard about the incident but did emphasize their family boarding policy states that one adult may board with children under 6 years of age. The wording on Southwest's website is less clear about a "one adult" policy and states, "An adult traveling with a child six years old or younger may board during Family Boarding."
Although Morse acknowledged that the incident may have just been a misunderstanding because of the vague language of the policy, he maintained the employee was insistent they were not an actual family.
Morse also alleged that the airline denied his request to seat his 83-year-old mother next to him in the event she needed his assistance, but sat her in an emergency exit row instead.
Southwest Airlines spokesperson stood by the move, explaining that the elderly woman would have had to board during general boarding and that, if she needed assistance, the family would have had to request it before the flight.