The main corporate sponsor of London’s 1997 Gay Pride Festival, United Airlines, has been exposed as pursuing antigay employment policies.
The gay rights group OutRage! is calling for a Europe-wide “Boycott United” campaign, in protest at United Airlines’ refusal to give spousal benefits to the partners of its gay employees. “Extending the existing U.S. boycott campaign to Europe will put United Airlines under increased pressure to halt its discrimination,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.
United Airlines had adverts in the official Pride Programme, proclaiming its gay-friendly credentials. At the Pride Festival on Clapham Common, United’s logo was displayed on the main stage; and the airline had its own marquee, where it encouraged gay travellers to “Fly the Friendly Skies”.
Calling for a boycott, OutRage! says: “United has cynically exploited the Pride Festival for commercial gain. It wants gay customers: but it doesn’t care about gay human rights”.
United defends its position by claiming that it offers partnership benefits only to married staff, and not to unmarried couples of any sexuality. “Since there is no legal provision for gay people to get married, this policy automatically discriminates against gay employees”, said Peter Tatchell.
United is suing San Francisco over its requirement that all companies doing business with the city must grant same-sex partnership benefits. United argues that no city has the legal authority to determine the employment policies of national or multinational corporations. “What’s happening in San Francisco is irrelevant”, said Peter Tatchell. United was refusing spousal benefits five years before the city introduced its policy. If United were a gay-friendly company, it would willingly grant gay partnership rights, irrespective of the legal rights or wrongs of San Francisco’s policy.
“OutRage! is urging gay travellers and travel agents –and their straight friends– to boycott United. Our spending power has the potential to hurt the airline financially. In the highly competitive airline industry, even a small drop in revenue can have a big impact and force a change in policy”, said Mr. Tatchell.
OutRage!, with the support of the Association of Flight Attendants, is urging everyone to alert their local gay press and and gay rights organisations about the Boycott United campaign, so we can exert pressure on the airline right across Europe. We are also requesting people to write a letter of protest to the Head of United, Worldwide:
South Perimeter Road,
or to his USA HQ:
1200, Algonquin Road,
P.O. Box 66100,
Recipients of this call to action included two leading gay travel agents in the UK, In Touch Holidays and Uranian Travel. Uranian Travel confirmed (13-August-1997) that they had already ceased to do any business with United Airlines. In Touch Holidays, regrettably, are not actively supporting the boycott: although they state that in fact they do very little business with United.
Over 30 trade journals and magazines serving the U.K. travel industry and business community have now been alerted to the conflict at United Airlines.