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.)
While a Texas court last month threw out a lawsuit filed by activists against the city on standing grounds, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Department of Transportation has responded to the state’s complaint indicating San Antonio has agreed to allow Chick-Fil-A to locate at the airport.
Presumably the FAA found the airport in violation of grant covenants by presumptively violating the first amendment, selecting vendors on the basis of political viewpoint. Principles matter, until they cost something it seems.
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.
Update: the city disputes the Texas attorney general’s characterization that they lost. They appear to be saying ‘The FAA isn’t making us do it, we’re doing it ourselves. Chick-Fil-A changed, not us! But the attorney general’s pointing out we lost paints us in a corner we’re we might have to drag our feet.’ So I’d characterize this as ‘developing’.
The FAA has not ordered the City of San Antonio to have Chick-Fil-A at its airport. The City itself offered to resolve the FAA investigation informally following Chick-Fil-A’s publicly stated change-of-position on its charitable giving policy. The City maintains that at no point did it discriminate against Chick-Fil-A. Any placement of Chick-Fil-A at the San Antonio Airport is ultimately contingent on Chick-Fil-A’s continued interest and approval by the City Council.
Attorney General Paxton’s inaccurate statements on this issue are not surprising given that neither he nor the State of Texas have been involved in the conversations between the City and the FAA. Unfortunately, and ironically, AG Paxton’s false declaration of victory significantly jeopardizes the potential for a mutually beneficial and amicable resolution.