By Cailey Rizzo
May 10, 2019

Southwest Airlines has updated its family boarding policy following an incident that passengers believed to be discriminatory.

Joshua Rainey/Getty Images

In 2017, Grant Morse and his husband, Sam Ballachino were waiting to board a Southwest flight from Buffalo, New York to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. They had their three young children and Ballachino’s mother in tow.

They attempted to board their flight during “family boarding,” only for a gate agent to tell them, “This is not for you,” Morse told The Points Guy. They believed their treatment was discriminatory because they were gay. “We were clearly profiled,” Morse told a newspaper at the time. Since the family was not allowed to board early, they were split up due to Southwest's open seat policy. 

In a statement to Travel + Leisure, Southwest said it launched an investigation into the incident and determined that the “confusion in the boarding area surrounded the number, not the gender of adults in our Family Boarding.” The family continues to uphold that their treatment was homophobic.

Southwest said it met with the Morse/Ballachino family last year to talk about the incident and their boarding policy. “The conversation prompted a closer look at the clarity of our policy through the viewpoints of both our Customers and Employees,” the airline said in a statement. “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 ability to board early.”

The Family Boarding Policy section of Southwest’s website now reflects the specification.

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