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Southwest Airlines changes policies after discrimination complaint

Posted at 11:11 PM, May 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-09 07:01:44-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Two years ago, Grant Morse and his family were traveling to Fort Lauderdale from Buffalo, NY when their trip took a turn.

Morse was traveling with his spouse, mother, and three children under the age of 6 at the time. When they arrived at the gate, things changed.

Fox 4 spoke with Morse two years ago, after the incident had occurred. “The gate agent immediately said, to my spouse, this is for family boarding only. You can’t wait here; this is for family,” Morse said.

Southwest Airlines’ policy at the time allowed one adult with a child six years and younger to board with Family Boarding, but Morse remembered it differently. He said the agent told them only one father could board with the children for family boarding, but the grandmother and other father had to wait.

“It’s still unbelievable how Southwest Airlines did not recognize my family as a family,” Morse said.

The incident led him to file a complaint against Southwest Airlines for discrimination. After hearing about the event, the airlines invited Morse and his family to the headquarters in Dallas to come to a solution.

That prompted the airline to change its Family Boarding policy to allow two adults with a child six years old and younger to board with Family Boarding.

Southwest Airlines said they investigated the incident and found no discrimination, but confusion surrounding the number, not genders, of adults in the Family Boarding.

Below is the full statement:

“Southwest consistently listens to feedback from Customers and Employees to Enhance Customer Experience. When Southwest learned of concerns these Customers had regarding our Family Boarding policy, we thoroughly investigated their journey and determined there was no discrimination. Instead, confusion in the boarding area surrounded the number, not the genders of adults in our Family Boarding. Both parents were allowed to board early with their children, but we requested a third adult board with her assigned boarding group."

"Southwest hosted a productive and friendly meeting with the Morse/Ballachino Family last summer to learn their concerns and hear their perspectives. Southwest and these Customers have different views of the facts. The conversation prompted a closer look at the clarity of our policy through the viewpoints of both our Customers and Employees. Earlier this month, Southwest updated our policy to specify two adults are permitted to board early with children who are six years old or younger. Never has Southwest’s Family Boarding Policy taken into account gender or marital status when determining the ability to board early.”

In an email, Morse wrote:

“The agent stated we were not eligible for family boarding and would only allow one father to board with three children under six during family boarding while the other father and grandmother could not board during family boarding assisting with the children. We believed that this was discrimination as we are a gay couple with three children under six years old. It only takes one rogue employee to create great damage. As a result of our meeting in Dallas, Southwest has changed the family boarding policy to eliminate inconsistencies that led us to feel as the policy was applied to us in a discriminatory fashion.”