FAA Investigates Complaints Over Chick-Fil-A's Exclusion From Airports

The fast-food chain was blocked from airports in Texas and New York this year amid backlash over its anti-LGBTQ stance.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the exclusion of Chick-fil-A from two U.S. airports over the company’s support of anti-LGBTQ causes.

In a statement sent to HuffPost on Tuesday, the FAA said it had “received complaints alleging discrimination by two airport operators against a private company due to the expression of the owner’s religious beliefs.”

In March, Chick-fil-A was blocked from opening in Texas’ San Antonio International Airport by City Council members who voted to ax the fast-food chain from a business plan. 

Less than two weeks later, New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan announced that Chick-fil-A was being barred from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport

The FAA said both locations had been notified that there are now investigations into the complaints. The agency also noted that “Federal requirements prohibit airport operators from excluding persons on the basis of religious creed from participating in airport activities that receive or benefit from FAA grant funding.”

“The findings of the investigations will be communicated to the complainants once the investigations are completed,” it added.

Though the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority said it would reach out to Ryan to review his concerns, the lawmaker had quickly dismissed the offer in a March tweet.

“We can’t allow companies who support anti-LGBTQ groups to do business at state-owned facilities,” he wrote.

According to representatives of the Buffalo airport, who spoke to local CBS affiliate WIVB-TV, the decision to bar Chick-fil-A actually came from Buffalo-based Delaware North, a global giant in the hospitality industry that operates concessions at national and state parks, airports, casinos, sports stadiums and entertainment complexes, among other venues.

We can’t allow companies who support anti-LGBTQ groups to do business at state-owned facilities. New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan

In a statement to HuffPost on Tuesday, Delaware North said it “had proposed multiple concepts for consideration per the airport’s process, but no final decision was made.”

“Not moving forward was a business decision based on Delaware North’s overall business considerations at the time,” the statement said.

Pushing back against San Antonio’s rejection of Chick-fil-A, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton launched an investigation a week after the City Council pulled the plug on the plans, calling it “potential discrimination” and arguing First Amendment rights may have been violated.

Though the FAA has referred to its investigation as involving “a private company,” First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based nonprofit legal organization that focuses on religious freedom, noted that it has concerns about the blocking of Chick-fil-A in a statement released Friday, adding that it asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in March to look into the San Antonio situation.

In a statement of her own also released Friday, Keisha Russell, associate counsel of First Liberty Institute, commended the FAA’s move.

“We are pleased that the FAA responded to our request by opening an investigation into San Antonio for its blatant, illegal religious discrimination against Chick-fil-A,” she said, adding that her organization has opened its own investigation of the matter as well.

Controversy began swirling around Chick-fil-A in 2012 when CEO Dan Cathy spoke out against same-sex marriage in a Baptist Press interview, saying he advocated for “the biblical definition of the family unit.”

Since then, boycotts and “kiss-in” protests have been held nationwide, though it seems the restaurant chain hasn’t changed its stance.

In March, tax filings showed that Chick-fil-A donated about $1.8 million to three anti-LGBTQ charities that have discriminated against the community.

In a statement sent to HuffPost Tuesday evening, Chick-fil-A noted that it has no involvement in the FAA’s investigation and argued that media coverage of the chain “continues to drive an inaccurate narrative about who we are.”

“We are a restaurant company focused on food and hospitality for all, and we have no social or political stance,” it said. “We are grateful for all our customers and are glad to serve them at any time. We welcome and embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

This article has been updated with comment from Chick-fil-A.