The friendly skies aren't so friendly... at least not anymore. When it comes to airlines, well, let's just say that currently, I'm generally not overly fond of them.
Forget the crowds, the lines, the security that at best seems inept. I can deal with that (most of the time, anyway).
While I appreciate just how easy it is to get from here to there, as a gay person, I don't so much fancy, nor am I impressed with, how easy it seems for flight attendants to make so-called "executive decisions" that are nothing short of sexual-orientation discrimination, or, at the very least, just plain, inexcusably rude, without repercussions.
Leisha Hailey and Camila Gray's recent hullabaloo with Southwest Airlines is a perfect example of how easy it apparently is to be escorted out of a plane for an "indecent" public display of lesbian affection. Wow, last time I checked, a kiss was not defined as a terrorist act and didn't pose any imminent threat to passengers' safety, nor did it qualify under the category of weapons of mass destruction.
Reportedly, during the pre-take-off phase, Leisha gave her girlfriend Cam an affectionate kiss -- a common enough occurrence, whether you are straight or LGBT. A stewardess then ordered them to abstain from further indulging in flirty behavior, on the grounds that allegedly, the airline is a "family" airline. The stewardess' action is neither OK nor acceptable.
Who wouldn't get upset after being told that you are not allowed to kiss because you are a same-sex couple? But traveling in the post-9/11 climate is a whole different flight plan. Indignation, however justified, reflected in raised voices or expletives, may likely ground you, as in the case of Leisha and Cam. You might even end up talking to a U.S. Marshal faster than you can say, "frequent flyer reward."
Regardless, Southwest should be held accountable for any and all discriminatory behaviors coming from its employees, and even more so when a major corporation of that caliber portends to be a "friend and ally" of the LGBT community.
Despite the fact that Southwest did issue a statement stipulating that it was the verbal turbulence that ensued that caused Leisha and Cam's eviction, the airline made no mention as to why the couple would be upset and offended in the first place.
"I demand a public apology by @SouthwestAir and a refund. Hate is not a family value. I will never fly this airline."
"We were escorted off the plane for getting upset about the issue. @SouthwestAir endorses homophobic employees. No one made her accountable."
I agree with Leisha and hope that she does receive a formal apology.
When corporations support us at any level, they are supporting our lifestyle. At some level, they may be after the business traveler or the martini drinker's pocketbook, but an endorsement of our market is an endorsement of our lifestyle. The two are not separate entities. It's our lifestyle, and not our spending habits, that is under attack. I've found many of those corporations to be stalwart champions of our rights, with a sincere commitment to our community. I've been proud to showcase them at The Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend.
I applaud Leisha and Cam for the stance they have taken. However, I've worked with Southwest. While I felt they were a bit overly concerned with image, I appreciate any corporation that reaches out to our community, and I personally share the sentiment that we should always encourage this behavior. However, sometimes we need to remind corporations about our culture and what is important to us, and, in turn, what is unacceptable. We have to allow corporations to correct corporate behavior, and I think Southwest, with the help of GLAAD (whose official airline is Southwest), will take this opportunity to become a better friend to our community.
Some might say, "Grab your bag and head to another airline." And indeed, Leisha and Cam have taken that stance. I say, "Southwest, be 'plane smart' and take this opportunity to further educate your employees. Continue to reach out to our community and support our community through your corporate sponsorships. And when it comes to a kiss or two, here's my advice: practice good manners. If it bothers you that much, look the other way."
Follow Mariah Hanson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dinahshore