An Australia-based airline apologized to a passenger after he reportedly found his suitcase covered in the airline’s baggage sticker tags reading, “I Am Gay.”
The Queensland, New Zealand man, who goes by Aaron on Twitter, said he was publicly humiliated upon retrieving the luggage at Perth Airport over the weekend after a Jetstar Airways flight.
Jetstar has apologized and said an investigation into the incident is underway.
“We are taking this matter very seriously and we have contacted the passenger to apologise for any distress caused,” a spokesperson told News.com.au.
Aaron posted the following image on Twitter Oct. 12. It has been retweeted almost 250 times.
Utterly disgusted to find my luggage front and center on the @JetstarAirways luggage carousel looking like this.
Just over an hour later, Jetstar responded to the tweet and promised to investigate
@aaronpp I’m very sorry to see that. So we can investigate this internally, please DM us your booking reference. Thanks - Anita
On Monday, Aaron detailed the incident on his blog, One Sleepy Dad, where he also noted his decision to avoid speaking to reporters. Here’s his description of what happened:
My suitcase was the first bag on the carousel. The entire flight’s passengers were shoulder-to-shoulder looking for their bags and I’m pretty sure that most people would’ve seen mine rattling along the rollers. I saw a big red case approaching and excused my way through the throng in order to retrieve it. I noticed some white bits on the side and turned back, apologising to the people who I had just pushed passed. “False alarm,” I said to one gent. Then I realised that it actually was my bag and that the white bits were the sign you see in the image above.
I plucked the suitcase off the carousel and had many eyes look me up and down. I was taken aback by the slogan but thought I had thick enough skin to ignore the leering. My connecting flight was about to board so I had to speed through the terminal to check in with Qantas. As I dragged the case through the terminal, I looked back at the people I had passed and they too looked at me differently. My luggage was a scarlet letter.
Aaron, who identifies as a heterosexual man, further described his experience as a “walk in the shoes of a gay person,” saying the message on his suitcase was used in a malicious way. The blog post goes on to sympathize with LGBT people.
Some people have been commenting that it’s probably just some loser in backrooms making a distasteful joke. Or that Jetstar has a culture of homophobia. Unfortunately, the mistreatment of our gay friends spans society. It goes all the way up to our political leaders and includes such luminaries as our Prime Minister. Our laws ensure that homosexuals are not afforded the same rights and dignities that many of us straight people take for granted every day.
Must read: Inspiring response from the man whose bag was defaced with an anti-gay slur by Jetstar baggage handlers. http://t.co/aBIsHvPp2P
Oh wow. An amazing follow up to the Jetstar “I am gay” luggage story. http://t.co/lvrkdv03V1 “The standard you walk past…”
READ THIS. NOW. MT @aaronpp: A blog to address questions I have received about [my] Suitcase with “I am gay” on it. http://t.co/zYPBZq3c5f
Wow. You sir are a champion. MT: @aaronpp: Blog to address the questions about the (“I am gay”) Jet Star suitcase. http://t.co/zZ2ZTZM6jK
@aaronpp Good on you for writing that.
However, Richard Smith at LGBT media blog, Fagburn, was quick to view the story with a grain of salt on Twitter and in a blog post:
Baggage Handler HOMOPHOBIA Alert!!: Please RT!! (Without Checking If It Actually Happened) http://t.co/UOnP6xh65g
UPDATE - 6 p.m. ET
A Jetstar Airways spokesperson declined to answer questions about the investigation, but issued the following statement to BuzzFeed:
“We are taking this matter very seriously and we have contacted the passenger to apologise for any distress caused. We will conduct a thorough investigation into this incident.”