"L-Word" Actress Claims Southwest Booted Her from Plane for Kissing

UPDATE (5:30pm CDT): In a formal statement released today, Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey denied suggestions that their behavior on the Southwest plane was in any way excessive though they admitted they got “verbally upset” afterwards (which is why Southwest now says they were removed from the plane). Here is part of the women’s statement:

“In no way were our actions on Southwest Airlines excessive, inappropriate or vulgar. We want to make it clear we were not making out or creating any kind of spectacle of ourselves, it was one, modest kiss. We were simply being affectionate like any normal couple. We take full responsibility for getting verbally upset with the flight attendant after being told it was a ‘family airline.’ We were never told the reason the flight attendant approached us, we were only scolded that we ‘needed to be aware that Southwest Airlines was a family oriented airline.’ No matter how quietly homophobia is whispered, it doesn?t make it any less loud.”

Southwest has updated its website, too. Here’s part of the airline’s new statement:

“Additional reports from our Employees and Customers onboard flight 2274 during a stop in El Paso on Sunday now confirm profane language was being used loudly by two passengers. At least one family who was offended by the loud profanity moved to another area of the cabin. Although we have reports of what Customers characterize as an excessive public display of affection, ultimately their aggressive reaction led to their removal from the aircraft.In this situation, their removal was directly and solely related to the escalated conversation that developed onboard the aircraft.”

Southwest also says it “reached out to extend goodwill and a full refund for an experience that fell short of the passengers’ expectation.” No word on whether they took the refund.

EARLIER: Actress and musician Leisha Hailey took to Twitter last night, crying “discrimination” against Southwest Airlines after she was escorted off a flight after kissing an unidentified female friend on the plane. The 40 year old Hailey starred in Showtime’s lesbian-themed drama, “The L-Word” from 2004-2009. Tweeted the actress, “Since when is showing affection to someone you love illegal?”

Listen as FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney and editor Anne McDermott talk about the incident in more depth (please note: this podcast was taped before the latest updates, above):

As FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney says, “I realize Southwest flies over 100 million folks each year, but even so, it is uncanny how they always seem to find a way to upset tweeting celebrities.”

Read 7 Things That Can Get You Kicked Off a Plane

Discrimination or Bad Behavior?

Hailey characterized what occurred as “a small peck on the lips”. Southwest suggested there was more than affection on display; here is the partial statement on the airline’s website:

“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.” -Southwest website, posted 9-26-11

We contacted Southwest, which declined to add to the statement but a spokesperson for the airline best known for its cheap flights did point us to a comment left on the TMZ entertainment site, purportedly from another passenger who witnessed the whole thing. Here’s what that person had to say:

“I was on that flight! I already gave my statement to Southwest. It just wasn’t a little kissing. There was major breast groping going on. There was a young boy in the section across. It doesn’t matter who whether straight or gay, there is a time and a place for everything.” -comment from Neko Nation, posted 9-26-11

Southwest: Family Friendly, Gay Friendly?

Hailey called for a boycott of Southwest by gay people saying, “They don’t like us”; she noted that a flight attendant told her that Southwest is a “family” airline, a word some contend can have homophobic connotations. However, it should be pointed out that on its website, Southwest boasts of being “the official airline of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation” (and GLAAD has stated they’re looking into this latest incident).

Southwest’s Other Celebrity Incidents

Southwest has had its share of run-ins with celebrities; earlier this month, Green Day rocker Billie Joe Armstrong claimed he was booted from a flight for wearing his pants too low. And film director Kevin Smith went on a Twitter rampage early last year after Southwest booted him from another plane for essentially being “too fat to fly”. Now the new anti-gay accusations. No matter where you stand on these issues, you have to admit: Hollywood is certainly keeping Southwest’s PR team busy.

Question for our readers: So what was this latest incident, excessive PDA or blatant discrimination?

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Published: September 27, 2011