Southwest Airlines CEO Defends Leisha Hailey Removal; Company Touts GLBT Outreach


Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly is defending the company's decision to escort L Word actress Leisha Hailey off of a flight in San Antonio, Texas Sunday for kissing her girlfriend.

Kelly told the Houston Chronicle, "I think our people try very hard to accommodate the needs and the wishes of our customers and they make judgments of what is appropriate and what is not appropriate."

"In all cases, we do the best we can to take care of our customers and if we can't get them where they need to go, obviously we're apologetic for that," he said.

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Hailey wrote about the incident in a series of tweets Monday, saying that she and fashion designer Nina Garduno, who have been together since 2006, "were escorted off the plane for getting upset about the issue."

"I have been discriminated against by @SouthwestAir," she tweeted. "Flt. attendant said that it was a 'family' airline and kissing was not ok."

"This is an outrage," she added. "I demand a public apology by @SouthwestAir and a refund. Hate is not a family value. I will never fly this airline."

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She continued: "@SouthwestAir endorses homophobic employees. No one made her accountable."

That last accusation was rejected by Kelly, "We're not trying to dictate social norms. Any of us have boundaries that we think people should behave within."

As for how the airline dealt with Hailey's case, the exec said, "It's very difficult to script out exactly how one should deal with any particular circumstance."

Southwest has a section of its website specifically dedicated to GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) outreach. The page is titled "Gay Friendly Travel" and says "we take pride in our outreach and commitment to the GLBT community."

It also reveals that Southwest is the "the official airline of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA), and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)."

GLAAD said Tuesday, "The widespread outrage around Leisha’s report demonstrates that fair-minded Americans will no longer stand for discrimination of gay and lesbian couples. All corporations need to ensure that employee training programs include best practices for welcoming all customers and that those practices are enforced."