Southwest Kicks Leisha Hailey Off Plane For Kissing Her Girlfriend, Starts Internet Sh*tstorm

Today, the fine employees of Southwest Airlines were gifted with a sight L Word Megafans would’ve paid money to see — The L Word‘s Leisha Hailey kissing her [this is unclear at this point, but she was definitely female.]

However, instead of taking photos with their cell-phones and uploading them to The L Word Wiki like any reasonable person would’ve done, Southwest reacted by kicking them off the airplane! Subsequently, Leisha took to twitter and called for a boycott of Southwest. Presently twitter is blowing up with support for a Southwest boycott.

Leisha tweeted about the incident from her own twitter handle as well as the account of the band she’s in with Camilla GreyUh Huh Her.

The full transcript of the tweets from Leisha’s personal account:

Leisha Hailey: “I have been discriminated against by @SouthwestAir. Flight attendent said that it was a “family” airline and kissing was not okay. This is an outrage. I demand a public apology by @Southwest Air and a refund. Hate is not a family value. I will never fly this airline again. We were escorted off the plane for getting upset about the issue. @SouthwestAir endorses homophobic employees. No one made her accountable. Since when is showing affection towards someone you love illegal? I want to know what Southwest Airlines considers a ‘family.’ I know plenty of wonderful same-sex families I would like to introduce them to. Boycott @SouthwestAIr if you are gay. They don’t like us.”

From @UhHuhHerMusic:

“So we’ve joined the ranks alongside @BJAofficial and @ThatKevinSmith for being kicked off an @SouthwestAir flight, this time for being gay. @SouthwestAir maybe you guys should put up a big sign that lists what you don’t tolerate before we spend our money on your horrible service. We didn’t know intolerance and discrimination for slouchy pants, being overweight and being gay was part of your family values.”

click to enlarge

Billie Joe Armstrong was booted off his Southwest flight for wearing saggy pants and Kevin Smith for being allegedly too large for one seat.

A Southwest rep replied to her tweet with “”I’m so sorry! Can you please follow/DM [direct message] me more details so we can get to the bottom of this? Thanks!”

Then around 1pm Leisha tweeted again, letting Southwest know that she had video and audio recordings of the event.

 

 

Southwest Airlines just released the following statement:

Statement Regarding Southwest Airlines Customers Removed from Flight 2274

Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive. Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight. We regret any circumstance where a passenger does not have a positive experience on Southwest and we are ready to work directly with the passengers involved to offer our heartfelt apologies for falling short of their expectations.

Uh Huh Her responded, via twitter:

“I didn’t realize a small peck on the lips is regarded as excessive and never once did your stewardess mention other passengers.”

This is a sticky and complicated situation and it’s definitely not an unfamiliar one – sure, a company can claim it was the affection itself that got Person A&B kicked out of the mall/restaurant/airplane — but would they have even noticed if it’d been a straight couple? I wonder if whomever booted Leisha could honestly say that they would’ve taken the same action against, say, two 65-year-old straight white people.

Our gay boyfriend Adam Lambert expressed his disappointment with the situation and support for Leisha on twitter. Leisha’s bandmate Camilla Grey toured with Lambert last year, and, in response to people questioning Lambert’s understanding of the story, he affirmed that he’d spoken to Cam and knew everything. And this is how he feels about it (after all, if anyone knows about the kissing double-standard, it’s Adam!)

 

Even Shane tweeted her support:

Glaad tweeted that they have been made aware of the incident and are continuing to “work on this issue.”

It’s ultimately unlikely that any of this is coming from the top. Southwest is the official airline of GLAAD and sponsors many of its ceremonies and initiatives, such as the Media Awards in Advertising, and the company earned a 95 on The HRC Equality Index for LGBT-related corporate responsibility. Southwest even has an entire area of its website dedicated to its involvement with the GLBT community — by all popular accounts, at a corporate level Southwest really loves gay people.

But who is empowering employees to make value judgments about their customers? Why is Southwest defending their flight attendant’s actions when it so values diversity and GLBT outreach?

This was funny timing, firstly because our Entertainment Editor Jess was interviewing Camilla Grey as this whole thing went down and secondly because my girlfriend and I flew Southwest last weekend to Shedonism in Las Vegas. I think most of our flight attendants were gay, sidenote. Nevertheless we did what I do any time I’m stuck in a inescapable enclosed space with a bunch of strangers: we tried to avoid engaging in any activities potentially characterized as “physical affection.” Sometimes I try to make it a game, like we’re secret agents and the conspiracy is our relationship. Because if it’s not a game, it must be real life, and nobody wants a real life where I have to censor my movements just to avoid the 5% chance of potential backlash. While self-policing, I always say things like, “I know I’m just being paranoid” and so when shit like this happens, it’s really disappointing to find out that my irrational paranoias weren’t so irrational after all.

Profile photo of Riese

Riese is the 33-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1758 articles for us.

117 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Wow, Riese, you were on TOP of this! I just finished reading Leisha’s twitter rants and then BAM, an article on AS about it.

    And I am very sad to say that I am very familiar with the secret agent game in public. I’m sure a lot of us are. It truly is disappointing to see that it’s not just us being paranoid. *defeated sigh*

  2. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    “I think most of our flight attendants were gay.”
    Foreal. I can’t think of a time I rode Southwest and didn’t have at least one (presumably) gay flight attendant.

    Also, I feel torn. Because I sort of don’t wanna fly SW now but my pockets still do and also if the high-end execs and things try to make SW supportive and sponsor Glaad and things then I don’t wanna boycott the one potentially good airline. I just feel like maybe some of their employees need to go through training to better handle situations where some people might be made slightly uncomfortable from the behavior of others. like, i’ve never complained and had the same freaking 4 year old who apparently sits behind me on every other flight, incessantly kicking my chair like the winning field goal escorted from the plane before. and talk about discomfort. ugh.

  3. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    What the frickin’ frack, indeed.

    This boils down to the individual flight attendant, but SWA needs to take a stand that they do not condone the behavior displayed by their flight attendant. The statement they released is bull shit.

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      That’s what I thought at first too. “Oh it’s just one homophobic flight attendant. SWA will apologize to Leisha, reprimand the employee and put them thru diversity/sensitivity training.”
      Then I read the statement they released and went nuts. What the fuck was that bullshit? I fly Southwest all the time and I am royally pissed off. I am seriously considering cancelling my December flight. American Airlines might have gotten a customer back.

  4. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Look, I get where Southwest is defending the attendant’s actions. They have a very loyal and devoted crew of employees, and the thing about loyalty is that you have to earn it, and if you want to get it you have to give it. So you can’t (and shouldn’t) expect them to throw this person under the bus to make some celebrity happy.

    On the other hand, Southwest (and all airlines, in fact) DO need to have 1) better guidelines for customers as far as what kind of behavior/dress/body type is acceptable, and 2) better training for their employees in how to handle situations like this so they DON’T escalate into something “better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight.” I know that’s a lot to ask, since flight attendants already are expected to waitstaff, nurses, emts, bouncers, and now kung-fu masters, but realistically with flying more stressful than it’s ever been and two sides that increasingly don’t want anything to do with each other trying to share a country, they don’t have a choice.

    It might even be better if the FAA stepped in and issued some guidelines for what it deems to be the standard of unacceptable in-flight behavior, just because as a regulatory institution it’s a bit more removed from panicked decisions onboard. If the FAA ok’s prayers, short skirts, kissing, and breast-feeding, who’s Southwest (or anyone else) to say no?

  5. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    With all due respect has anyone ever been on Southwest. The seating makes it practically impossible to see what other passengers are doing. So what were these other passengers doing that they even saw the two kissing. I find what the crew said to be questionable.

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      I actually thought about this because we literally were sitting in the very back corner of the plane when we flew last week. but i imagine leisha probably had the more expensive seats and was probs in the front row or two, right around the stewardess people. or at least that’s what happened when i visualized it earlier while writing this.

  6. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    The only time my wife and I police our own PDA is around our teenager and her friends, because duh, they think that’s the most embarrassingly heinous thing their parents could ever do to ruin their lives totally FOREVER, God.

    Obviously we exercise tact at say, funerals or other somber, serious occasions, but if anybody tried to police our shit under normal circumstances I swear to fucking God I’d go batshit with rage and someone would pay. It’s bullshit. B U L L S H I T. Straight people get to joke about fucking on planes but queers can’t kiss? DIAF.

  7. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    When you’ve been around as long as I have, it can be very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security because of how far we’ve come in terms of acceptance. Things like this are just a reminder of how far we still have to go. Visibility still matters.

  8. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    It does sound like this is a case of individual employees making a judgement call, and not a reflection on corporate policy. But at the same time, that “statement” is pretty bullshit. Even if they did receive complaints from other passengers, and that’s what prompted the flight attendant to approach Leisha, the statement Southwest released makes it sound like Leisha was doing something wrong. I can understand them wanting to support their employees, but a simple, “We regret what happened and are looking into the matter further,” would’ve been a better public statement than what they put out. This is a huge PR fail for Southwest.

    Also, obviously the flight attendant didn’t know Leisha was a celeb with 10,000 Twitter followers. Heh.

  9. Thumb up 1

    Please log in to vote

    “Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive”

    This would make it even more unreasonable not to take pictures and upload them to The L Word Wiki!!! Who are these people???

  10. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    This is not awesome. At all. But I can’t help but imagine that this is a case of an ignorant flight crew member. Southwest is a super glbt friendly airline–but those corporate stances don’t always ebb down into the bottom ranks. Once things escalated, the flight crew probably *felt* they had no choice but to ask them to leave the flight. I hope that Southwest will be given the chance to make this right and that they WILL make things right! Mandatory remedial diversity training for all!!!

  11. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    This is such bullshit. It frustrates me looking around the internet at the reactions to this how many people are immediately ready to believe the best of Southwest and worst of Leisha.

  12. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I don’t know how to feel about this. Southwest is the only airline I fly because it is by far the most affordable and flights normally land early, not late. Plus, they let to cancel flights with refunds and are flexible with free carry ons. I hate flying in general, but it’s a necessity and, well, I’d consider myself a fan of Southwest Airlines.

    I am disappointed to learn of this incident and mostly want to blame the flight attendant who may be a) homophobic or b) way too oversensitive. It’s hard to say without truly knowing what Leisha and her girlfriend were doing and where. I generally lean toward “public displays of affection in certain public situations are just not appropriate.” A Southwest plane is one of those places. I’m trying to think about it and I’ve never been stuck sitting next to anyone who kissed on a flight. If I had, I’d probably be a little uncomfortable. If it was just a peck and no one had complained, then the flight attendant overstepped her bounds. But at the same time, I can imagine Leisha or her girlfriend getting indignant to the point where it became a scene and became uncomfortable for the other passengers, thus getting kicked off.

    I don’t know what to think, but mostly I think fuck the flight attendant.

      • Thumb up 0

        Please log in to vote

        My husband and I were once sitting behind a straight couple who were full-on making out on a night Delta flight. We didn’t complain though, we just made fun of them amongst ourselves.

        • Thumb up 0

          Please log in to vote

          thats not what she said… bring down the defensiveness a notch. just b/c you like leisha hailey doesnt mean everything she may say is fact (p.s. this statement does not mean i do or don’t think she was lying). magic main pt is, a more objective depiction of the scenario such as video/audio (assuming its not edited) would help elucidate what went down.

  13. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Was Leisha Hailey kicked off the plane because she kissed her girlfriend, or was she kicked off so as to accommodate the homophobic passengers that complained?

    I know it seems like splitting hairs. But what a lot of companies don’t seem to get is that you cannot accommodate marginalized customers and bigoted customers at the same time in these types of situations. Someone is going to have to feel uncomfortable. And all too often the employee faced with this dilemma chooses to accommodate the majority. That’s why fighting systemic discrimination can be so much more harder than changing a policy.

  14. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    so i’m actually curious about the level of kissing. was it indeed a simple peck? if so I am right there with everyone with the indignation and can totally understand L.H. getting offended and heated. However, if it was more.. well I personally think its gross when any couple (gay, straight, young or old) are making out in public. like that’s just unnecessary folks. i get it, you’re in love, or just really god damn horny- but trust that most people don’t want to see that shit in public and the ones that do are prob already looking at porn on their iphones… just sayin

  15. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    My ability to respond to bigotry and hate right now is overloaded due to general world fuckery. I will instead embrace this moment to play a ridiculous amount of really really gay music.

    Cue Adam Lambert/Uh Huh Her dance party.

  16. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Whenever I hear the phrase ‘kicked off the plane’, I always imagine a flight attendant opening a door in the plane thousands of feet above the earth and literally kicking the passenger off.

    Now that would be a WHOLE different shitstorm.

  17. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Here’s the fuckery: Because this is Leisha Hailey, this is news. If this were anyone else? It would be Southwest’s dirty little secret. And probably it has been already.

    It doesn’t matter how much of a show they make about being gay friendly. The fact that that flight attendant was not out on her (?) ass on the tarmac, catching her pink slip as it fluttered from the plane is a problem.

    The fact that Southwest is putting out a statement in defense of the actions of bigots, rather than simply stating “this merits investigation and we will make a statement when we better understand the events” is fucked the fuck up.

    In a way? I’m glad they decided to fuck with a women who carries such a loud voice. At least her anger will be heard.

    • Thumb up 0

      Please log in to vote

      I agree that the woman should be fired, but no one on that aircraft had the authority to do so immediately, so calling for her to get her ass kicked out right that second is pretty ridiculous.

      Also, a short, generic press release (which is what that was, btw) is hardly an endorsement of said woman’s actions. It’s been what, a day? A company as large as Southwest isn’t going to fire someone that this much hooplah has been stirred up about in less than 48 hours after hearing only one side of the story. I’m not saying that any of this is right, but good lord can people please fully inform themselves before jumping on the boycott and rage bandwagon? Rage at the individual, not the airline as a whole. This isn’t going to go over without a real investigation, and newsflash, investigations don’t occur in a day.

      • Thumb up 0

        Please log in to vote

        That press release was fucked up. The right thing to do would be to simply say they were concerned and taking it srsly, and in the process of looking into it. But nope, they shifted the blame to anyone but themselves. A+ corporate ass covering spin.

        • Thumb up 0

          Please log in to vote

          zomg wake up, sheeple! ilene f.c. wrote the press release, or at least recycled most of the material from her post-sixth-season one.

          “Initial reports indicate that we received several [viewer] complaints characterizing the [deliberately asshattish] behavior [of Jenny] as excessive[ly asshattish]. Our crew, [Myself Ilene, One and Only, O most Holy] responsible for the comfort of all customers on board [this clusterfuck of a TV show], approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender [honestly just said 'fuck it' after season 2]. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, [You all became exceedingly hostile with the demise of Mr.Piddles,] as opposed to in flight [but at least 509 was a good ep, right?!]. We regret [Thankfully,] any circumstance where a passenger does not have a positive experience [I don't really care what thousands of lesbians think of Me] on Southwest and we are ready to work directly with the passengers involved [and I've sorted my Google results to flattering ones first] to offer our heartfelt apologies for falling short of their expectations [so fuck all y'all. P.S. Dana.]

  18. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    As a big ol lesbian that works for and adores Southwest Airlines, this whole situation has put me in rather uncomfortable shoes. SWA does a hell of a lot of good for their LGBTQ employees and, in my 8 years of working for them, I have never come across an instance of (internal, mind you – I work in maintenance) homophobia that was not swiftly dealt with. My same sex spouse receives full benefits, and I have never been looked over for promotion because of my sexuality.

    While I do believe what happened to Ms. Hailey and her partner was reprehensible, I also believe that calling for the boycott of an airline that does a great deal of good for the LGBT community is blowing things a bit out of proportion. That said, I understand that her statements were made in in-the-moment anger, and I would likely same the same were I to experience something similar with an airline that I am not familiar with.

  19. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Why does this crap always happen with Southwest? They seem to have 99.99% great employees and .01% raging douchebags. If they could solve their douchebag problem (maybe somewhere in the hiring process?) they’d be awesome.

  20. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    ‘Family’ airline. I loathe it when people use the term ‘family’ as an excuse for homophobia. Like gay families are some kind of weird tribe(no, I’m trying not to go there) with a penchant for flannel. And if they would really like to stick to the concept of ‘family’, why not go all the way and allow unlimited servings of alcohol, make the air plane a smoking zone, and provide legal services for divorce proceedings. This is based solely on MY definition of having a family of drunkards and chain smoking cheating bastards, but hey, homophobia is also society’s definition of family values, right?

  21. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    On one hand I think Southwest is a great airline – great record, good business model, cheap prices and public support of LGBTQs. Also, I am one of those people who hate seeing excessive PDAs (like those people on the subway who proceed to do some heavy snogging, right by the door, blocking your entrance/exit. Or the ones who go at it in public to the point where they SHOULD be looking to find a room).

    On the other hand, I would never tell people to tone it down or, worse, complain about their behavior to management. As much as I hate excessive PDAs, I also equally hate complaining. I’m all about living and letting live. BUT what really bothers me is that I know that some people think that two women showing ANY public display of affection, be it hand-holding, a peck or yes, even a little kiss, is wronger than wrong. And far too often these people use the term “inappropriate behavior” as excuse for the real reason behind them taking action to stop ANY small PDA between 2 women from happening.

    http://SoNotStraight.tumblr.com

  22. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Why has no one suggested the anti-boycott? Let’s all fly on SWA, like, right now, and kiss our girlfriends, see how many of us they boot. Call it a statistical research study.

  23. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    i think it’s a little too early to call for a full-on boycott…it would be unfair for southwest to act without completing an investigation.

    regardless, i can’t help but feel a bit deflated today..

  24. Pingback: Leisha Hailey and girlfriend kicked off Southwest airlines for kissing | qPDX.com – Queer news, views and events for Portland

  25. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    Were the couple being too affectionate in public? Would a straight couple have received a reproach had it been them sitting in the same seats? Why do some of us get so uncomfortable when it comes to the public display of affection of same sex relationships? And should Ms Hailey have bitten the bullet and piped down or was she right to insist that she be allowed to be free to express her affection for her girlfriend even in a closed container like a plane as opposed to a park?

    http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2011/09/singer-actress-leisha-hailey-kicked-off-southwest-for-making-out-with-her-girlfriend/

  26. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    I don’t want to condemn the Southwest Airline just yet. I have heard passengers on that flight were complaining that Leisha Hailey and her girlfriend is being excessively affectionate. They were asked to tone down their PDA but they acted unreasonably that’s why they are booted out. I guess that instance wouldn’t happen if they have been appropriate with their actions.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.