Airline: 'L Word' star removed for excessive kiss
The publicist for a lesbian actress and musician who says she was escorted off a flight for "one modest kiss" of her partner says the encounter was not a stunt for her band's upcoming breast cancer awareness tour.
Leisha Hailey, best known for playing Alice Pieszecki in the now defunct Showtime lesbian life drama "The L Word," asked her Twitter followers to boycott Southwest Airlines after the encounter Monday.
The airline responded that Hailey's display of affection was excessive and drew customer complaints.
The actress and her partner, Camila Grey, denied in a statement released Tuesday that the affection they showed toward each other was inappropriate.
"We want to make it clear we were not making out or creating any kind of spectacle of ourselves, it was one modest kiss," the written statement said. "We are responsible adult women who walk through the world with dignity. We were simply being affectionate like any normal couple."
Hailey and Grey acknowledge they became upset after the flight attendant reprimanded them. They said the attendant told them that Southwest is a "family airline."
"No matter how quietly homophobia is whispered, it doesn't make it any less loud," the statement said. "You can't whisper hate. We ask this airline to teach their employees to not discriminate against any couple, ever, regardless of their own beliefs."
Hailey and Gray said they plan to file a formal complaint with the airline.
The incident resulted in a national media spotlight for the actress, who now is a part of the electro-pop duo Uh Huh Her. Publicist Libby Coffey said Tuesday that the encounter was real and was "absolutely not" done for attention.
The airline said in a news release posted on its website: "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."
Hailey tweeted that she was escorted off the flight after it landed. The statement said the incident with the flight attendant lasted five minutes.
The air carrier so far has limited its response to the four-sentence statement on its website. Phone calls and emails seeking comment were not returned.
"Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive," the statement said in part.
Details of how the couple was escorted off the flight were not included in the Southwest statement. Initial reports had the flight between Baltimore and St. Louis, but a tweet by the band says its members were flying from El Paso, Texas, to Los Angeles.
The band's Twitter feed also characterized the kiss as fleeting. "I didn't realize a small peck on the lips is regarded as excessive and never once did your stewardess mention other passengers," said the tweet from UhHuhHerMusic.
Hailey said in a tweet that she has an audio and video recording of the encounter between the couple and the flight attendant. It's not immediately clear who made it.
Hailey demanded a public apology and a refund from the airline.
Hailey was a musician before joining the cast of the cable drama featuring the lives of lesbian friends and lovers living in Los Angeles. The show is currently not aired.
Southwest's website says it is the official airline of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Herndon Graddick, senior director of programs at GLAAD, said in an email late Monday that "GLAAD contacted Southwest to call for additional actions beyond tonight's statement that ensure all customers feel comfortable and welcomed while traveling."
Earlier this month, the Dallas-based airline kicked off Green Day's lead man Billie Joe Armstrong for wearing his pants too low. The Grammy winner was escorted off a plane after failing to follow a flight attendant's directive to pull up the pants.
Southwest also removed director Kevin Smith from a flight last year because he didn't fit properly in a single seat. His first tweet read, "Dear (at)SouthwestAir I know I'm fat, but was (the) captain (...) really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?"
Hailey is preparing to launch a 21-city tour with Uh Huh Her to promote breast cancer awareness. One of the band's songs was included in the 2010 movie "The Kids Are All Right."