DENVER — A San Diego gay couple returning home from celebrating Thanksgiving alleges a United Airlines agent bullied and intimidated them, called them “faggots,” and threatened with being banned from their flight, all because they complained about poor customer service from United employees.
Billy Canu, speaking on behalf of himself and his partner, said they had approached the United Airlines customer service area seeking access to the Gold and United Club members lounge at Denver International Airport and eventually complained that the attitude of the staff was indifferent and patronizing.
We went to customer service and the line was empty. My partner and walked to the front of the rope and stood there waiting, there were four staff behind the desk (1 male, 3 female) and one male stood beside them.
We were initially ignored as all five were chatting to each other. One was reading a magazine on hair and nails. The gentleman at the side of the desk beckoned us over, yet still we were ignored. The four staff started laughing with each other as to who was going to help, pointing to each other. One woman said ‘I can’t help as I’m pregnant’ and laughed at us. A lady (whose name we did not take) then proceeded to ‘help’ We asked what the difference was with the Gold access to the lounges, but she could not help.
She simply told us that Gold access was for international only as ‘those tickets cost more’ in a very condescending tone.
Eventually the gentleman to the side of the desk explained the difference, that there are open wide access Gold lounges and United members clubs. What we had tried to enter was a members club. The lady who served us went back to reading her magazine and I apologized for interrupting her magazine reading and explained she was rude. She looked up, again with a condescending attitude and said ‘Im soooo sorry’
My partner then backed up my cause explaining how rude she was, again we were met with ‘Im so sorry’ This wasn’t an apology, but a mere attempt at belittling us. The conversation got heated and then Rodney Hill, the ‘manager’ appeared.
According to the couple, Hill showed up during the conversation with the agent, did not ask any questions to assess the situation, and simply told the men they had to leave or they will be removed from the airport.Canu told LGBTQ Nation on Monday they felt intimidated as
Hill warned them that not only could he remove them from the flight, but have them escorted off the airport property, and face arrest by Denver law enforcement.
Canu acknowledged that the situation had become very confrontational at this point.
Rather than escalate the incident, Canu said, he and his partner walked away from the airline’s service desk, but claimed that Hill followed them a short distance down the concourse continuing to threaten the couple with removal from the airport.
According to Canu, Hill also shouted at them, calling them idiots at which point, Canu’s partner, angered at the ongoing tirade turned on Hill and shouted back ‘what was that?’
Canu said that Hill responded with “What faggots?” in what Canu described as a threatening posture.
Shortly after, Hill returned to the service desk.
Canu told LGBTQ Nation that both he and his partner felt bullied and scared by the incident and felt that Hill’s reaction was inappropriate.
Canu said he did return alone to the service desk to get Hill’s full name and a way to contact Hill’s supervisor, and that Hill snapped that he could contact whomever he wished on the airline’s website to make a complaint.
Canu said he contacted United Airlines on Sunday to make a complaint, but told LGBTQ Nation that as of Monday morning, he had not been contacted by the airline.
Reached by LGBTQ Nation late Monday, United spokesperson Christen David, Senior Manager for Corporate Communications, wrote in an email, “United does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and we take this customer’s complaint very seriously. We immediately initiated a review of the alleged incident and are contacting the customer to follow-up.”
“However, we have not been able to corroborate the customer’s version of what was said,” wrote David. “Our Customer Care team has been in contact with Mr. Canu.”