Southwest Airlines facing possible Lawsuit over Denied Boarding

It’s no secret that in today’s digital age, news travels fast. Everyone has a cell phone with a video camera, and access to fast upload speeds to get those videos to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and a lot of other avenues to share both positive AND negative news in the blink of an eye. The latest drama now puts Southwest in the crosshairs, and Southwest Airlines now might be facing a possible lawsuit over a denied boarding allegation.

Southwest Airlines denied boarding to a married couple and their three children this weekend, and one of the fathers isn’t having any of it. He’s considering a discrimination lawsuit and he might just have a case.

Morse family, from the Gaily

So, why were they denied boarding?

Daniela Costa writes in her article about the details:

Grant Morse, his mother, his husband Sam and their kids were scheduled to fly from Buffalo to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday. They were waiting in the family boarding area before their flight only to be told they needed to leave by a gate agent.

“This is for family boarding only,” Morse says the agent told his husband. He describes being “aggressively” told they would not be able to board, this even after they explained they are a family and had legal documentation affirming so.

“This is only for families,” the agent reportedly repeated.

Morse and his family stood their ground and tried to board with the other families once again, but were stopped by the same agent, who allegedly said, “This is for family boarding only and you are not permitted to board. This is only for family, and I told you that already.”

Once the family did board, they were separated. Their five-year-old had to sit between two strangers in a row alone while Morse sat in the back with his three-year-old twins and his husband sat alone a few rows in front of them. Morse’s elderly mother sat alone near an emergency exit.

Ouch. This is NOT what Southwest needed right now, especially in today’s high strung environment with everyone’s, including members of congress’ eyes, on the airlines.

The family was also interviewed by local TV station WKBW where they stated that heterosexual couples with small children were allowed to board during the family boarding process, but they were made to stand to the side and wait.

Southwest’s policy from their website states clearly:

An adult traveling with a child six years old or younger may board during Family Boarding, which occurs after the “A” group has boarded and before the “B” group begins boarding. If the child and the adult are both holding an “A” boarding pass, they should board in their assigned boarding position.

Southwest Plane

Tisk Tisk…

Shame on your Southwest… they are stating that they were not allowed to board because of the 83 year old mother in the group. In any case, that woman, if she required more time to board the aircraft, would be allowed to board BEFORE anyone, so boarding with the family for extra assistance should have been a no brainer. If she doesn’t want to walk down the jetbridge by herself, then she should be allowed to board with the family, especially if they are, indeed, a family.

I understand that policies are in place for a reason, but a company should also empower their employees to make the necessary adjustments when situations arise. We don’t need to look very far back to see what happened with United Airlines to try and understand why airlines don’t need anymore negative press.

For a company who’s stock ticket symbol is LUV and claims to have a big heart, this was a huge fail.

What do you think? Was the gate agent justified in denying boarding to this family?


Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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  1. I have seen southwest turn away families quite a few times when they try to have grandparents board with them in family boarding. Obviously, not seeing or knowing the condition of the grandmother we don’t know if she wouldn’t have needed extra assistance, which then would have allowed her to board earlier as you stated. At this point, it’s all “he said, she said”, but I’m certain airlines are quickly realizing that they are going to need to tiptoe through every situation as people will be quick to call foul in hopes of a payday or 5 minutes of fame.

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    • I don’t think these people are looking for 5 minutes of fame, and we don’t know the condition of grandma, but Southwest agents should also have common sense

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  2. The gate agent is a moron. Clearly they were a family regardless of age or makeup or anything else. They have young children and are flying together so let them board together. It isn’t rocket science, its common sense. The GA should be reprimanded and retrained. If they balk at that, fire them.

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  3. LOL. Every passenger now that doesn’t get their way thinks they should take their story to social media/news outlets and try to get a payday/freebies. The grandmother should have either pre-boarded before anyone if she needed assistance or boarded in her assigned boarding position. This family (two fathers with their three small children) were not denied boarding during the family boarding, the grandmother was. Don’t make this out to be something it is not.

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  4. y los argumentos esgrimidos, cuales fueron?

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  5. Your title is disingenuous or misleading at best. In common airline parlance, denied boarding implies that one is not allowed to take board and take the flight in question. Denied boarding does not imply a temporary situation (you would qualify this with “family was initially denied boarding.”). Actually, no one in this family was denied boarding – the grandmother was not allowed to pre-board.

    You are an airline blogger, so I would think you would know this. The only other explanation is that you were trying to make this more sensational than it is.

    It does sound like Southwest handled this poorly, and I tend to think that a male-female couple traveling with an elderly mom and kids would not have been treated the same way. Who knows? Still, your title reeks of click-bait. It’s annoying and inaccurate.

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    • You’re entitled to your opinion, but they were denied boarding when others were not denied boarding, so while they did get on the plane, it was pretty messed up how Southwest did it. No clickbait at all, the post is true. They are facing a possible lawsuit over denying boarding. You’re right, I am an airline blogger, and I like to write about all things, including a stupid gate agent that felt that this family shouldn’t board while others did. And you’re right also, the grandmother probably could have boarded during the first group of people, but if I was 83 and flying with my kids, I wouldn’t wanna be on a plane and be separated from my kids and grand kids. Moral of the story… don’t fly Southwest if you want to sit together… right?

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      • Jon, my point is that Denied Boarding in reference to airlines and air transportation refers to not being allowed to board AND fly on a particular flight. That did not happen here.

        The family, in question, was not allowed to PRE-board or get on the flight before everyone else. At no time did they tell this family that they would not be allowed to travel (hence, they were not Denied Boarding). They (actually the grandmother) were denied the opportunity to pre-board.

        I am surprised, but I don’t think you get the difference, so maybe you didn’t mean to further emotionalize what happened. However, to anyone that knows a bit about airlines and air travel, your title is very confusing and misleading. I hope this clarifies what I said earlier.

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  6. Not buying it for a couple of reasons:

    1. Single parents with young children use that line all the time, so the whole “discriminating against me because I’m gay” line doesn’t seem to really hold water.
    2. Who’s to say WHERE they were in the “family boarding” line?
    3. If it was SOOO important that they sit together, they should have purchased the early check-in (as should anyone who wants to sit together).

    I’d bet anything there’s more to this story…

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    • There’s always more to a story Mike… always. But it doesn’t help with airlines come back with stock responses that could be found on a twitter channel. I think those canned responses only help to fuel the controversy.

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  7. Looks like lots of trump deplorables chiming in…

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  8. Not only was the gate attendant wrong, in my opinion, he (or she) should be ashamed of themselves. What on earth were they thinking. Not only should they have let them board, they should have tried to work with one of the two passengers sitting next to the separated child to get them to exchange seats with the Grandmother, so she could sit next to the child, at least.

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