Texas Airport Has Spent Over $300,000 In Legal Fees Defending Decision To Ban Chick-Fil-A

San Antonio airport was at the forefront of a nationwide trend to ban Chick-Fil-A over its political beliefs. This almost certainly violates the chain’s first amendment rights and is impermissible for a government-owned and run airport.

While it would be permissible for an airport to have a policy that all of its food outlets must be open 7 days a week – there is limited space in the airport and they need to use it to feed passengers, especially on busy Sunday – statements made advancing Chick-Fil-A bans have clearly indicated the decision is made on the basis of animus towards the chain’s past support of charities which are inconsistent with LGBTQ equality. The former is viewpoint neutral, the latter is not. (Countering Chick-Fil-A with government-sponsored airport speech is a separate issue entirely.)

In addition to two lawsuits the FAA launched an investigation over whether Chick-Fil-A bans violate federal law. And now it’s been revealed that the San Antonio airport has already spent over $300,000 in legal fees defending its decision to keep Chick-Fil-A out of the airport.

According to the latest numbers, to day, the city has paid at least $315,000, with other invoices pending. The city faces two lawsuits and a federal investigation nearly 10 months after city council voted to exclude the popular restaurant chain from coming to the San Antonio International Airport, citing a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.

Readers may know that I’m in favor of marriage equality. However this is a pretty bizarre, and not just illegal, way to take a stand on an issue.

Deals for Chick-Fil-As in airports won’t even be with Chick-Fil-A. Chick-FIl-A won’t operate the restaurants. Airport restaurants are generally run by concessions companies like Delaware North and OTG and not the companies associated with the brands you know, although of course Chick-Fil-A would have earned licensing revenue from the deals.

Personally I think if we’re going to have controversies over chicken sandwiches we might as well get even better chicken sandwiches out of the deal. Austin’s airport has Flyrite Chicken Sandwiches.

This is “The Cowboy” which is “spicy crispy chicken sandwich topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, fresh jalapenos and hoss sauce.” And it was ordered with tater tots.

Airports can have chicken sandwiches, regardless of their politics.

(HT: Joe Brancatelli)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. San Antonio is a Terrorist Organization. I hope Chick-Fil-A crushes them. It has got to the point where Liberals think they are the only ones that matter, and everyone must bend to their way of thinking. Mind you, I have never set foot in a Chick-Fil-A. For those that do not agree with them they do not have to either.

  2. Even though I’m a ‘Libtard,’ I’d have to agree that they can sell that stuff wherever they want. But one look at the “Cowboy” tells me San Antonians are healthier for not having it there.
    Besides tater tots, Can you order it with a cardiologist appointment?

  3. @Alan – “a Terrorist Organization” is way too far. Agree that taxpayer money is being wasted here, which is sad, but polarizing comments like yours only divide people.

  4. Apparently it is expensive to be woke. I hope this sends a message to local governments that the people would prefer them to simply do their jobs well rather than wasting time and money virtue signaling.

  5. @Doug >Apparently it is expensive to be woke
    Indeed. Ask Prince Harry 🙂

    On the Chic Fil A issue, I am glad I do not pay taxes in San Antonio.

  6. Happens a lot when people are bullies and spending other people’s money. The cost above $5,000 should be charged to the board members of the airport personally. I give them $5000 leeway because that’s the amount that a lawyer would charge for 5-7 hours to consider the issues of the case

  7. Wasn’t Chick-fil-A banned because it does not open on Sunday and businesses at the airport need to be open seven days a week? This is not about politics, it is about business.

  8. All of us should write to the city or county to get these airport board fired for wasting money. We pay fees when using SAT.

    They didn’t sue TSA for not having precheck all the time but use the 7 day excuse for chick filA

  9. I prefer my chicken to be atheist, but that’s unimportant once they meet their (sandwich) maker.

    To be fair to my friends on the “libtard” and “woke” side of the spectrum, some Chick-Fil-A defenders are hyperventilating about a council’s vote on chicken sandwiches. Yup.

  10. @Ari – Nobody is hyperventilating about a council vote on chicken sandwiches. The issue is government limiting the ability of a business to operate based solely on the religious views of their owners. That is profoundly unamerican. For those making the 7-day/week argument, a quick search of the counsel members’ comments will make it clear that this is about religious views that they find objectionable.

  11. Homophobes nationwide will stand with Chick- Fil -A. It’s not about religious dogma, it’s about being bigots. Could you imagine if they gave money to anti-Semitic or anti-catholic organizations? Using religion to justify hate is so wrong. Alan, Woofie and Derek are clearly bigots and should be recognized as such. Good for San Antonio for sending up against bigotry and hate.

  12. This is funny. The airport is spending tons of money to fight a chicken joint that’s crazy busy 6 days a week all across the country. Whatever the outcome, I travel on a weekly basis and have seen many closed restaurants when flying on Sunday.

  13. @Gary: This is the council attempting to ban consumers from taking the decision for themselves. At Dallas’ Love Field there is a Chick-Fil-A and it always besieged with passengers.

    Likely, the nazis on the San Antonio board knew what people wanted and didn’t want them to be able to vote it.

  14. Most leisure travelers like myself like to leave on a Friday and return on a Sunday in order to maximize their vacation time. For this reason airports should give priority to restaurants that are open 7 days a week. This has nothing to do with religion or LGBT right.

  15. Just think Chick Fil A absolutely sucks but I suppose I’m in the minority
    Spit out the chicken sandwich in one airport and have never returned again to any location
    Feel the exact same way about In & Out an iconic chain that has the masses lining up for soggy fries and odd tasting meat that without dumping tons of condiments is disgusting in actual taste
    Perhaps I should have ordered fried @ Chick fil a on the chicken sandwich but its another layer of unhealthy and a risk factor for strokes and heart attacks as you age.
    I applaud the San Antonio for wanting a restaurant open 7 days a week to serve the traveling public and for looking into discrimination of any kind and prohibiting it.
    Sad that it comes with a big legal tab but I get it.

  16. @Doug – So what’s next, no service to gays, blacks, jews? Being open for business in this country could be serving everyone – discrimination is what’s unamerican, although it’s quickly becoming the norm under our current government.

  17. @Elliott If you are going to write something so blatantly incendiary and dishonest, please provide a link to all the court cases Chick Fil A lost because it refused to serve “gays, blacks, and Jews.” You can’t find any, can you?

    Everyone reading this can see the only discrimination going on here is the woke council discriminating against a company due to its founder’s religious beliefs, and they are paying for their discrimination.

    @Gary >>Readers may know that I’m in favor of marriage equality.<< Too bad you felt the need to include such a line. Your personal beliefs have no weight in this issue. Either this is discrimination or not, whether or not we like it.

    If we are bringing personal views into this, I don't like Chick Fil A food. So what? I still support it's right to exist. When I want better food, I vote with my money. OTOH, San Antonio votes with other people's money.

  18. Scary how government officials think this is a remotely appropriate use of their power. Just shows how willing both parties are to abuse their power when it comes to pushing their particular agendas.

  19. Write to Mayor Nirenburg and District 9 Council member Courage and complain about wasting money. They have “contact us” pages in the San Antonio city website. The city owns the airport.

  20. ElliottS says: @Doug – So what’s next, no service to gays, blacks, jews?

    Hi ElliottS I think you’re commenting in the wrong thread. Maybe you were reading a story about a business that discriminates in terms of who they do and do not serve?

  21. @Joseph – you’re assuming my comment was directed specifically to Chick Fil A – it’s not. It’s directed toward the broader issue of discrimination and the trend toward our gov’t endorsing such discrimination. I’m not in agreement with the action of the San Antonio city council. However, my comment is directed more broadly at the dangerous direction in which we are moving
    This country was founded on the principle of separation of church and state and the Pilgrims wanted to escape the restraints of the Church of England. Our gov’t is currently rapidly moving toward the infusion of religion (specifically “Christian”) into our gov’t and this is patently wrong.

  22. What the hell? They aren’t open on Sunday? That’s stupid. If they want to rent space somewhere I’m not captive to eat at like two places fine but at an airport everyone should have to have reasonable hours. Morons.

  23. It’s ridiculous to assert it’s illegal for the airport to select concessions based on any number of reasonable criteria. And it’s equally ridiculous to assert that Chick-Fil-A’s right to free speech is being violated. CFA is, as always, welcome to fund whatever bigoted organizations it wants. And it can continue to lie about how it has changed its ways, as those are well within its rights also. However, as with all free speech, it doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences – in this case, not being chosen as a concession at SAT. I applaud the city and hope it keeps defending it’s right to select concessions that reflect the city’s values.

  24. What does marriage equality even mean. It seems that it is not just about government allowing state sanctioned same sex marriage but persecuting people who don’t bow down to or love gay marriage. Would people who don’t support religion be labeled as not supporting religious equality, probably not.

    Discrimination is a natural reaction to wanting to be surrounded by your own whether racially, ethnically, religiously, ideologically or etc. Instead of forcing (with violence as the government aka police state does) people to be with and do business with others they have nothing in common with we’d be a lot better off and happier in separate countries. Liberals in liberal countries and conservatives in conservative countries. 50 states thousands of miles apart when there are so many racial, ethnic, religious and ideological differences makes government hell for everyone because they are always being held down by the opposing groups. This land is big enough for more than one country. As a Christian, conservative, libertarian minded individual I have no problem with liberals choosing to live the way they want. Just don’t force it on me.

  25. No one should be forced to rent, sell to or hire who they don’t want to for any reason whatsoever. Private businesses should be free to serve who they want and hire who they want. Government however should not discriminate and that is exactly what’s they are doing here against this company.

  26. ElliottS says:

    1. “This country was founded on the principle of separation of church and state”

    Incorrect. At the time of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution the majority of the States had established churches and many persecuted dissenters, whether other Christians or non-believers.

    2. and the Pilgrims wanted to escape the restraints of the Church of England.

    Incorrect. The Pilgrims traveled to North America from Leiden in the Netherlands, a land of religious religious toleration.

    3. Our gov’t is currently rapidly moving toward the infusion of religion (specifically “Christian”) into our gov’t and this is patently wrong.

    This story doesn’t really support that assertion. As between Chick Fil A and the San Antonio City Council, it’s the private company that is infusing “religion (specifically “Christian”)” into its identity and the government actor is opposing them for that very reason.

  27. It seems that corporate stances over religious beliefs is a one way street. Right winged “religious” groups and corporations use “religious beliefs” to discriminate against LGBT people on a daily basis. When an airport wants to ban a company over its religious beliefs, now its crossing the line? Smh.

  28. @PAm just curious” what is Chich Fil A doing to “LGBT people on a daily basis.” Maybe an example of an LGBT person who was discriminated against by Chick Fil A yesterday would be helpful to illustrate your point.

  29. @Pam how in the wide wide world of sports is the owner not being pro gay marriage discriminating against anyone. Wait, maybe….do they ask you to identify at the drive up window? Bwahahahaha

  30. I do NOT go to Chick-Fil A because they feel they are Superior to gays since they do not want gays to marry.

    I do NOT go to Hobby Lobby because they do not give women the rights to birth control but will give Viagra to men.

    I do NOT go to Wal-Mart well for a number of abuse issues.

    If you do NOT visit companies that abuse and use workers then you are helping that company abuse and thus are doing the same. Some of us fight for those who can not fight for themselves .

  31. @ Emma — This “excuse” that you can boot Chick-Fil-A from an airport because they’re not open on Sundays seems bizarre to me. Sure, if there was only room for one restaurant at the airport, that could be a legitimate concern. But we all know that’s not the case at all: there are many other places you can eat at SAT on Sundays. I know Chick-Fil-A’s Sunday closing has its origins in the founders’ religious beliefs. But let’s suppose another airport restaurant wanted to close one day a week because its owner is a super progressive liberal who wanted to make sure all her employees had time for their families. Would you exclude that restauranteur from the airport? I think I know the answer.

  32. @ElliottS – This is not about discrimination. There have been ZERO accusations of Chick-fil-a denying service to, refusing to hire, or in any other way mistreating LGBTQ people. If there were, this would be a different discussion. The issue instead lies with the fact that the owner, Dan Cathy, is a Christian who personally believes in the traditional view of marriage. You can disagree with him, and if you feel strongly about it, you may choose to avoid his restaurants. The issue becomes when government attempts to punish businesses based on the religious views of their owners. Imagine if the City of Mobile tried to keep a restaurant out of the airport because its owners were Muslim. That would be un-American and so is this.

  33. This city airport named for a Christian saint has spent an ungodly amount of money denying a Christian owned business the right to operate. If the board hates Christianity so much they need to rename the airport. In honor of the famous San Antonio resident, Judge Roy Bean, I suggest they rename the San Antonio Airport the Beantown Airport. Seem appropriate since the airport board is full of beans.

  34. I’m glad the airport sent the creepy nutters packing, despite the legal costs involved. Chick-fil-a chose to fund hate groups, now they’re being called our for it. Good riddance.

  35. @AlohaDaveKennedy that was funny. Oh course the quadrasexuals will call you a racist, or as my friend Tam from Vietnam says “lacist” even tho he can pronounce it correctly. I told him about the Beantown airport and he likes it.

  36. If a city can ban a company because they disagree with that companies political beliefs, Can a resident ban city billing for water, sewer, etc because the resident disagrees with the cities political beliefs? After all, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.

  37. i try to stay away from fast food but every time someone on the internet starts virtue-signaling about chick fil a it makes me crave their spicy deluxe sandwich. god i want it so bad and i’m sad today is sunday.

  38. @DillonYork.”I do NOT go to Hobby Lobby because they do not give women the rights to birth control ”

    Explain the part where Hobby Lobby is preventing women from exercising their (first amendment?) “rights” to birth control. Do they fire women who sue birth control? Please explain.

    Also, not that prior to Obamacare no insurance companies were required to fund free birth control, so I guess you’ll say that American women had no “right” to birth control until 2010? And by the way, if this “right” (to have your employer pay for insurance that pays for birth control) is so fundamental and essential, why was it not even included by Congress or Obama in the act creating Obamacare? Your thoughts welcome.

    By the way, while you are making lists, how many of the companies that you do business with pay transportation costs for their employees to attend services at a church, synagogue, mosque or temple? If they don’t, they are they “do not give [their employees] the rights to [exercise their religion]”, right?

  39. The family that started CFA are Southern Baptists, and the current president stated his views about same-sex marriage. That said, there are plenty of gay employees in the company, and it doesn’t discriminate against gays as customers.

    The company keeps tight control on the stores, which it owns, and applies tight standards to its operators. Certainly a better method compared to Marriott in the other story Gary published.

  40. @Kirk: That is actually a point that has been overlooked in this discussion. Chick-Fil-A staff are routinely friendlier, more professional, and more helpful than staff in other fast food chains. That speaks legions about their management system as maintaining staff execution quality is one of the hardest operational tasks in a multi-site restaurant operation. I have not seen any numbers but I would bet that training is more extensive and turnover lower than in the likes of McDonald’s, Jack In The Box, Burger King, Popeye’s, etc.

  41. Just a reminder that many of us still passionately disagree with the redefinition of marriage. (It was never about “equality” as the word marriage means joining of a man and woman and always has.) You libs sure love to play with your words to make things sound good……

  42. @ George Ferguson – if you don’t want to “redefine” marriage, perhaps we should return to biblical times when marriage was for the purpose of a woman being the chattel of a man.

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