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Gay Couple: United Airlines Manager Called Us 'Faggots'


San Diego couple Billy Canu and his partner say they were threatened by a United Airlines manager who called them "faggots" before threatening to kick the couple off their flight after they got in an argument with gate agents over accuss to United's Gold Lounge, 7News reports:

HillCanu said the agents gave the couple "a very condescending, sort of rude answer. They were trying to figure out who was going to help us."

When Canu and his partner complained about the handling of their question, a manager approached them and escorted them away from the area. Canu claimed the manager then escalated the situation.

"As we were walking away he goes ‘idiots,’" recounted Canu. "So, my partner turned around and started walking up to him and said, 'I'm sorry. What did you say?'"

"He [the manager] says, ‘What f*****s,’" according to Canu. Canu said the manager even threatened to kick the couple off their flight to San Diego if they continued to complain.

Canu said he and his partner began tweeting about the incident. In one of Canu's tweets, he identified the airline employee as Rodney Hill and posted a screenshot of Hill's United profile. United Airlines is investigating.

Watch News7's report HERE.

Canu provided a more detailed retelling of the story on Facebook.

Read it, AFTER THE JUMP...

My partner and I were catching the 7:07pm flight from Denver to San Diego on Saturday, November 26th 2011. We arrived at Denver airport and proceeded to the United lounge. We are both Gold members with United/Star Alliance and have had no problem entering the lounges when traveling in Gold status. 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. The conversation went like this:

RH: 'It's time for you men to leave'

My partner: 'You haven't assessed the situation, you've just turned up half way through and are demanding we leave'

RH: 'I don't care, you need to leave now or I will have you removed from the airport and you won't fly'

MP: 'And who are you and what is your role'

RH: 'I am the manager' (delivered with a patronizing tone)

This conversation went back and forth for approximately a minute and I then ushered my partner away. Rodney was continuing to threaten us by removing us from the airport. We posed no 'threat' to be removed from the airport, the only aggravation we showed was upset from a rude service desk clerk. After walking away Rodney followed us and continued to fuel the fire. We did challenge him to act better. He then followed us threatening again to remove us, as to which point we walked away.

Rodney Hill then shouted 'idiots' at us.

Angered at this my partner attempted to walk back to challenge him, my partner shouted 'what was that?' and Rodney replied. 'What faggots?' before walking back to the customer service desk.

At this point I pulled my partner back. There was simply no point going back to the desk area as we would have been removed with force from the airport. We were not winning and could not communicate with any of the staff at this area. We couldn't get pictures or couldn't talk to a manager for fear of getting removed from our flight. We sat in the waiting area, both of us visibly upset and shaken by what had happened. I then returned to the desk and asked for Rodney's full name. He responded by saying 'dont you dare patronize me'

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  1. Rafi, This thread has gone in a few different directions, but I'd say by and large that 99% of the commenters agree with you, the use of the word is unforgiveable (Pete being a glaring exception). The only disagreement is whether Rodney said what's he's accused of saying. Some commenters believe the complaint in its entirety, I think more believe the complainants were partly at fault and that they may have made up the faggot part to retaliate against him. I'm tentatively in that camp, reasoning that, although airline employees are often rude, they know a word like that is a firing offence and they usually dont care enough to risk that. Nobody (except Pete) thinks Rodney called them faggot justifiably.

    Posted by: Brian | Nov 28, 2011 4:12:16 PM

  2. well said Lee. why is race even being bought up as an issue. and this guy could be Cuban, Native American, middle eastern. i didnt see anything about him being black. there are any black men in the gay community that were out and proud well before it was socially "cool". they fought and got disowned and killed, many times by their own familys for being gay. then by the community for being black amd gay. so lets not let 1, maybe black ,monster be used as a grneralzation for all black men. my other point is, i dont care what was said by this couple. bottom line is that they are customers. there is a way to handle situations as an employee. he chose to handle it his own way so he should definitely be fired. zero tolerance. im not surprised by this from united. ive witnessed their poor customer service and biased attitudes towards "undesirables" i say boycott!

    Posted by: crystal | Nov 28, 2011 4:26:01 PM

  3. Rodney's hot. Too bad he's otherwise not.

    Posted by: Jeff in DC | Nov 28, 2011 4:48:18 PM

  4. To be fair these guys probably shouldn't be trying to push their luck with regards to gaining access...the problem here is the obviously rude attitude towards these two guys! They r suppose to be dealing with the public and clearly failing at their jobs! Further more....faggots?! That bloke needs sacking from his job! If it were the other way rnd and they called him a nigher it be a different stry! The airline needs to reevaluate its stand on their employees and sort this out!

    Posted by: Dan | Nov 28, 2011 4:49:42 PM

  5. While this will certainly draw out ire from some, since 9/11 an airport has become a quasi US military interest, even in the private lounges. It's sad to say, but in an airport YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS, gay or not. This means the employees of the airline industry have enormous power to hassle or lie to have you imprisoned. Not a smart place to make a fuss if you want to get to your destination.

    It really stinks.

    Posted by: Quint King | Nov 28, 2011 6:31:03 PM

  6. There is ALWAYS an unheard side to the story. Need to hear both sides guys, before you draw conclusions. I fly United and they are USUALLY friendly and helpful.

    Posted by: Stephen Q | Nov 28, 2011 6:56:05 PM

  7. People have a strong allegiance to Airlines around here, it seems. Reminds me of Penn State. Do you people work at United, or is it the "Institution" of the US Customer Service that you can't see being tarnished? It's intriguing, I must say...

    This is beyond an F-Word. This is bad customer service which escalated into outright hate. It's inexcusable and could happen to anyone - which makes it even more surprising to me that people are defending it.

    There's no reason to believe the couple were lying (in fact, I think they were quite classy) - and even if they WERE bitchy, good employees would "kill them with kindness". It's funny how people ask for patience and to "wait for the other side" while showing no restraint when it comes to blaming the victims for this and that. So much hypocrisy.

    Posted by: Easyroad | Nov 28, 2011 7:09:35 PM

  8. Sounds like yet another upset 'couple' not getting their way and pissing about it. And then throw an 'angry' black man into the mix and you have 2 of the most over the top whiney groups of people having an argument. Give me a break, you didn't get to go sit in the 'big boy' area and the manager hates same sex couples. Get over it, deal with the names, you aren't three and this society is rude, disgusting and sickening. Welcome to America.

    Posted by: Me | Nov 28, 2011 7:41:38 PM

  9. Based on the facts reported, they were not entitled to lounge access. Elite frequent fliers only get lounge access when traveling on an international itinerary. Obviously homophobic comments are wrong, but they were very likely being pushy and unreasonable (and demanding something to which they were not entitled).

    Posted by: Todd | Nov 28, 2011 9:09:37 PM

  10. I think a lot of the reason some people aren't sympathetic to these guys is that the description of what happened makes them sound like unpleasant people wanting something they weren't entitled to receive. Not to mention that flying on Thanksgiving weekend is hell on earth for everyone involved---customers and staff.

    I also would suggest that the guy who wrote the account of what happened is racist, if only because of comments like "reading a magazine on hair and nails" (codeword: she's black) and "I am the manager (said in a patronizing tone)" (how can that be said too patronizingly?)

    Posted by: Paul R | Nov 28, 2011 9:12:30 PM

  11. I Definatly beleive tha t the situation needs to be handled immediate with that one individual but if u make a generalizationa out the entire community of African Americans what makes u any better?

    Posted by: ledzbian | Nov 28, 2011 9:22:15 PM

  12. Paul R, weren't they entitled to have someone help them? All they wanted was to ask a question - isn't that what customer service is for? And how are they any less sympathetic than the staff, who made no effort to be helpful in any way - or the manager, who proceeded to insult them?

    Posted by: Easyroad | Nov 28, 2011 9:54:53 PM

  13. I don't know which concerns me most, the homophobia at United Airlines or the racism in the comments here.

    Posted by: David | Nov 28, 2011 11:41:16 PM

  14. Easyroad, I wasn't saying that was my opinion because I don't have all the facts. I was simply saying that he comes off like a bit of a jerk.

    And as many people have said, as frequent fliers they should have known what benefits, clubs, member room, etc. they where entitled to enter. Airlines are very clear on those.

    We only have a one-sided perspective. Moreover, I fly on United all the time and have never been treated poorly. It's not my airline of choice--far from it--but it's what my employer prefers. I'm not defending hate speech, but there's always the chance that the guy said "idiots" both times instead of "idiots," then "faggots." They sound quite similar, and unless the manager is truly stupid, there's no way he yelled it at them. So there's a chance they heard what they wanted to hear.

    I hate the racist comments on this post along with the assumption that gays are always in the right. That's not self-loathing, that's reality.

    Posted by: Paul R | Nov 29, 2011 12:48:33 AM

  15. Of course, calling customers idiots is also unacceptable. But again, we don't know the full story. Instead we're all speculating, which is pointless.

    Posted by: Paul R | Nov 29, 2011 12:51:03 AM

  16. calling customers idiots and faggots is never ever okay under any circumstances and especially from someone in customer service.

    A big part of customer service is dealing with upset and even irate customers in a daily basis. You are trained to handle those customers and there is no justification for that kind of behavior from a manager.

    I work in customer service and I get all kinds of customers from the polite to the abusive. I understand that is part of my job and I try not to take it personal. I work to deescalate the situation and offer the best solution available to the customer. I have never been disrespectful to a customer and let alone used hate speech against them. I would be terminated immediately and that is what should happen to that manager if the accusations prove to be accurate.

    Posted by: truthteller | Nov 29, 2011 2:29:57 AM

  17. United has insulted me, cursed at me, cussed me out, lied to me and lost my bags countless times in the past, all without shame.

    The only reason they haven't made a homophobic statement to me in the torrent of abuse that their inept, miserable employees dish out to hapless passengers is because one day I wised up and realized that American Airlines was a vastly superior carrier with much better customer service.

    Vote with your feet. You've got a choice in air travel.

    Posted by: Flying United is a mistake | Nov 29, 2011 2:41:12 AM

  18. From Gay American
    Look I don't care what color anyone is....purple,blue,black, whatever....but its becoming clear recently that the "younger black generation" has NO problem throwing "words" commwent was to point out that - its easy to throw hurtful words around..when you've never had to Fight for your Rights/ or for just simple Respect as a human being...when all those Rights were there when you were born. ..thats all. Again.....I just wish people would Treat others,as they Themselves wish to be Treated..period.

    Posted by: Gay American | Nov 28, 2011 12:11:23 PM

    Well Gay American first of all this statement was hurtful #1 I simply don't believe you have any Black friends gay or straight! And since you keep saying the young Black generation is doing this. Have you met the Old White Republican Party?

    What is the differencr between a slur and someone taking away your rights???

    And another thing I don't believe Andy Towle is prejudice. But I do believe certain articles that he posts knows is going to do just what it is doing now. He's know dummy he knows how to get the hits!

    Posted by: CHRIS DACHOCOLATEEBARCUB | Nov 29, 2011 2:52:09 AM

  19. What an ugly couple!

    Posted by: John Johnson | Nov 29, 2011 5:50:44 AM

  20. But John Johnson they're still not as ugly as your parents. Maybe you could teach your mother how to shave her beard she would look better.

    Posted by: ELI | Nov 29, 2011 7:16:59 AM

  21. Paul R, in the same way you talk about an "assumption that gays are always in the right", it can be said that some are making an assumption that people who work at United are always in the right.

    Why do people think it's more likely that this couple made it all up? Is it so hard to believe that a customer service could ever be less than perfect? Is this a "gay men always blow things out of proportion" or a "gay men are always looking for attention" thing? If so, that's just as despicable as the racist comments.

    With all the reports of gays and lesbians being kicked out of hotels, malls, flights and all sorts of places, you'd think that Towleroad readers would know better.

    Posted by: Easyroad | Nov 29, 2011 10:19:48 AM

  22. First off, no one deserves to be spoken to in a condescending tone. No customer service person should call customers "idiots", let alone anything else.

    But let me play devil's advocate here. The guy doesn't even pronounce the status correctly for the airline. "Gold Status" with Star Alliance, of which United is a member, is earned by flying a great deal with a Star Alliance member airline. Anyone who achieves that level knows that United Clubs, or the lounges of other airlines, are reserved for members, or for people traveling internationally in business class or higher. Period. Other than that, it's $50 to enter.

    Now, I will say in their defense, that United's club representatives are known by members as "dragons" in many circles. They're generally the people that are too senior in the union to fire, and too surly for gate or ticket counter service. They're mostly nasty women who have no business in a customer-focused job. Not all....but a large percentage. Ask any UA frequent traveler.

    What happened to these guys could happen in any business, at any airline in the US, or at any store, restaurant, hotel, etc. It has nothing to do with the airline. It's just plain ignorance.

    In being fair, I put half the blame on these guys for trying to enter a club without a membership of the proper credentials.

    Posted by: steve | Nov 29, 2011 11:55:37 AM

  23. I am the first to say United sucks generally in there customer service, but, being in customer service, gay and knowing lots of drama queens I do have alot of questions on where the real truth is. The fact that they have to bring the race issue in tells me alot about where they stand and sounds like they dont travel well.
    I travel a great deal and the last thing you want to do is piss off a airport person.
    They can may your life a living hell.

    Posted by: Danny | Nov 29, 2011 1:40:42 PM

  24. Sounds to me as if they picked this fight themselves. It is not necessary to call customer service people out when they are not as attentive as you think they should be, this kind of thing happens every day and you need to choose your battles. This doesn't excuse Mr Hill from calling them the the 'f' word, but if they had more sense it wouldn't have escalated to that level in the first place. My father would have said "you just missed a great opportunity to keep your mouth shut"

    Posted by: Evji108 | Nov 29, 2011 2:35:53 PM

  25. I am a United Airlines employee and to read so many generalizations about the airline is so wrong. First off, I can tell you that the people that work the United Club are very experienced agents. They are not allowed to be sitting around reading magazines. Do I believe what these gentlemen said? For the most part, I do believe that some of this happened. We go through extensive sensitivity and anti-discrimination training. To call another employee or customer such a name is definitely call for disciplinary action. So, I'm sure that the manager involved may lose his job. On the other hand, I have to side with some of the other posters here in saying that there are 2 sides to the story and we're not hearing it all. That is because UAL employees are not permitted to speak to the press. Also, to clear up a few things about United employees, please keep in mind that these days alot of employees in customer service are contracted out and don't actually work for the airline. Also, many of them work for United Express, which is separately owned and operated from UAL. Also, to the poster who stated that they received no inflight entertainment, that again, could only be on a United Express flight since all of our planes are equipped with inflight entertainment. I do feel terrible that the two gentlemen involved received such awful treatment from our airline, but I do pride myself in working for a company that hires employees of all kind and allows zero tolerance to any kind of harassment, whether it be verbal or physical.

    Posted by: Steve | Nov 29, 2011 4:01:37 PM

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