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Southwest Airlines is Being Sued Over a Special Program That Awards Hispanic Students With Free Flights

Southwest Airlines is Being Sued Over a Special Program That Awards Hispanic Students With Free Flights

a blue and yellow airplane taking off

Southwest Airlines is being sued for a special program it runs that awards Hispanic students with free flights to get to and from school because it is claimed the initiative discriminates against non-Hispanic people.

Southwest has run its ¡Lánzate!/Take Off! travel award program for more than 18 years, and between 2005 and 2019, the program saw Southwest donate more than 4,000 free flights to students across the United States.

The program is run in conjunction with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, which helps to choose around 200 lucky students per year who will benefit from Southwest’s free flight donation.

Despite the philanthropic nature of the program, the initiative has drawn the ire of the American Alliance for Equal Rights, which filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Southwest in a Dallas district court.

Describing itself as a nationwide organization dedicated to ending racial and ethnic preferences, the Alliance says it started to research Southwest’s ¡Lánzate!/Take Off! program after two non-Hispanic students said they had been excluded from applying.

In fact, these two students had completed their applications and written accompanying essays only to then realize that they couldn’t apply when the online application asked them to certify that they were Hispanic.

As part of the application process, the Alliance claims Southwest asked for photo evidence, while a list of FAQs for the program explicitly states that it is only open to Hispanic students.

“Two of the Alliance’s members—A and B—were excluded from Southwest’s program because of their ethnicity. Both tried to apply this cycle and sincerely want to apply and win. And both are ready and able to apply for the next cycle. But both can’t because they’re not Hispanic,” the 16-page complaint against Southwest reads.

“Members A and B find Southwest’s discrimination against them deflating, disheartening, offensive, and hurtful. That discrimination is all the more hurtful because they could have used those free tickets to help their family, improve their finances, and support their academics,” the complaint continues.

The Alliance accuses Southwest of intentional discrimination by excluding non-Hispanic students and is seeking relief under the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and 1964.

Rather than seeking a huge sum in damages, the Alliance is asking the court to slap Southwest with an injunction and restraining order, as well as nominal damages of just $0.1.

In response to a request for comment, Southwest said it was looking into the details of the complaint. The lawsuit has been filed under case number: 3:24-cv-01209.

View Comments (2)
  • So if they are successful in there lawsuit and SWA ends the program, not only will those 2 whiners not get the free flights but 200 or so other people won’t either. Geez…

    • Southwest is free to operate a student flight giveaway that does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, or other illegal factors. If you disagree with the Civil Rights Acts, then contact your Representative and Senators to demand their repeal.

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