Anti-Affirmative Action Group Sues Southwest’s Flight Program That Offers Free Flights to Hispanic Students

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Jun 06, 2024

An anti-affirmative action group, Edward Blum’s American Alliance for Equal Rights, has filed yet another lawsuit, this time against Southwest Airlines. 

The lawsuit claims that Southwest is being discriminatory toward certain skin colors due to its free ticket program for Hispanic students. This comes after some of Blum’s student members were declined from using the program due to them not being Hispanic. 

Southwest Airlines Is Closing Operations at 4 Airports

Southwest is experiencing financial difficulties, meaning one of the last things they need is a lawsuit. The airline is set to close operations at 4 airports across the U.S.

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A Southwest Airlines plane taking off on a runway. The plane is blue and has orange and red on the tail and wings. It says, “Southwest” in white on the body of the plane.

Source: Miguel Ángel Sanz/Unsplash

This comes after they lost $231 million in the first quarter of 2024, which has affected their ability to order new Boeing planes and hire and retain staff.

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Concerns the Program Would End Due to Costs

Due to Southwest’s financial difficulties over the last few years, some worried that the program for Hispanic students would end.

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A Southwest Airlines plane on an airport runway. The plane is blue and has orange and red on the tail and wings. It says “Southwest” in white on the body of the plane.

Source: Miguel Ángel Sanz/Unsplash

However, after the 2023 program still went ahead as usual, it was also confirmed back in March that the program was open for 2024 applications. 

Hispanic Students’ Access to Education

One concept that is not looked into more is white privilege. One of the findings about this is how white students are the most likely out of any ethnic group to have good access to education.

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A group of students wearing blue and red graduation gowns and throwing their caps in the air.

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Meanwhile, Hispanic groups have had much less access to the same education. In turn, this has left those of this ethnic group with less financial security as they don’t have the education needed to access the same high-earning jobs as their white counterparts.

Southwest Airlines’ Free Flights for Hispanic Students

Southwest’s free flights for Hispanic undergraduate and graduate students have been running for the last two decades and provides these students with four round-trip tickets.

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A Southwest Airlines plane in the air. The plane is blue and has yellow and red stripes on the tail and wings. On the body of the plane, it says “Southwest” in white.

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However, it’s not available to all Hispanic students. To be eligible, students must live at least 200 miles away from their home. Students of other ethnic groups are not eligible. So far, the program has helped 1500 students.

Edward Blum Says the Program Should Be Available for All

Unhappy with the fact that the program is only available for Hispanic students, Blum’s equal rights group has alleged that Southwest should open the program to all ethnic groups in the interest of equality.

Edward Blum in a black suit standing next to some white steps.

Source: @ucantrygoodluck/X

This lawsuit comes after two Asian and white students who are members of his group were barred from accessing the program, with Blum believing that their ethnic origin shouldn’t matter when trying to access the program.

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Southwest Airlines Has Allegedly Violated Several Acts

In the lawsuit, Blum alleged that Southwest is in violation of several historic acts by making the free tickets accessible only to Hispanic students and suggested the airline should seek to resolve this.

A Southwest Airlines plane coming into land. The plane is blue and has red and orange on the tail, wings, and underneath of the plane. It says “Southwest” in yellow on the tail of the plane.

Source: Trac Vu/Unsplash

They are allegedly in violation of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, along with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both acts seek to bar discrimination and racial bias in federally funded programs and activities.

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Edward Blum Has Filed Numerous Lawsuits

This isn’t the first lawsuit that Blum has filed, as in recent years he has filed numerous lawsuits that all relate to business’ supposed lack of equality.

Edward Blum talking to reporters.

Source: @GimmieABeat/X

Many of these lawsuits challenge corporate diversity programs. Another of his groups managed to win a case at the Supreme Court that would prevent race from being considered a factor in college admissions. 

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Keeping Students in Contact With Their Families

One of the main points of the free flight program was to help Hispanic students keep in regular contact with their families, as they are the students who are most likely to be the furthest away from home.

A person with pink nail polish holding a phone in their hand. Their laptop is on the wooden table in front of them.

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The program enables the students to do their studies and graduate with high grades while also being able to balance their family responsibilities. This includes translating for their parents or helping to support their younger siblings.

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How Southwest Airline’s Free Flights Program Has Benefitted Hispanic Students

Hispanic students who have used the free flights program have widely noted how much it has helped them with their studies, often in ways that wouldn’t have been possible without it.

A Southwest Airlines plane taking off. The plane is blue and has orange and red on the tail and wings. It says “Southwest” in white on the body of the plane.

Source: Sven Piper/Unsplash

This includes being able to fly their parents over for their graduation. As their families often live many miles away, it can be difficult (and expensive) for them to get to their children’s graduation. 

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The American Alliance for Equal Rights is Against Hispanics

The Southwest lawsuit isn’t the only one the equal rights group has filed against Hispanic-biased institution. They filed another lawsuit in 2023 against the Smithsonian Institutute.

A person holding up a cardboard sign that says, “Equality in diversity.”

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This lawsuit was about their Latino Museums Studies Program. In the lawsuit, the group has alleged that the Smithsonian Institute’s hiring practice increases the representation of Latina and Latino museum professionals, something they allege violates the U.S. Constitution.

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Southwest Airlines’ Corporate Responsibility

According to its website, Southwest has talked about its corporate responsibility to its customers. As a result, it offers several programs, including free flights for Hispanic students, to help its customers get where they need to be.

A Southwest Airlines plane on an airport runway. The plane is blue and has red and orange on the tail, wings, and underneath. On the tail, it says “Southwest” in orange.

Source: Trac Vu/Unsplash

The company says its three principles are loving people, building resilience and living responsibly. It goes on to say that these principles, investments and initiatives give customers great value. Should Southwest lose this lawsuit, it could spell the end for a program that has benefitted many.

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