According to one of the men, James MacDaniel, the only reasonable explanation is that it was an act of homophobia. Adding that he will never again take for granted the freedom and safety he experiences in Iceland.

James McDaniel and his boyfriend Hafsteinn Himinljómi Regínuson, well-known in Iceland as the drag artist Ragna Rök, where sitting comfortably in their seats on board an airplane from Southwest Airlines on December the 22nd when three policemen approached them and ordered them off the plane. Explanations were unclear but the most reasonable one that James can come up with is that it was an act of homophobia. 
James has been writing about the couple’s experience on his Facebook-page. GayIceland got in touch with James to get more details on the incident as well as getting his permission to publish parts of his Facebook-posts.

James McDaniel and his boyfriend Hafsteinn Regínuson had boarded a plane going from Baltimore to Alabama when they were approached by three policemen who told them that they had to leave the plane immediately.

“We were on our way from Iceland to my family in the States to spend Christmas with them and had booked a flight from Baltimore to Atlanta with Southwest Airlines,” James recounts. “We boarded our flight to Atlanta on time and were getting cozy, glad to be on the last leg of our trip. My older brother and mom were at the airport in Atlanta to meet us and I was so excited to be back in the states to see my family, especially since I have not seen my father or younger brother in two years.
Then, while we were sitting in our seats on the plane three police officers came onto the plane and told the two of us we had to leave immediately. They wouldn’t tell us why. Then they started saying Haffi (Hafsteinn’s nickname) had thrown stuff at the flight attendants.

“… we will be so happy just to step back on to Icelandic soil tomorrow … the freedom and safety I feel in Iceland, let’s just say I won’t ever take it for granted again after this experience.”

We tried to ask them what they were talking about as it seemed they must have got us mixed up with someone else. They said if we didn’t leave they would take Haffi away in handcuffs. It was unclear why they were targeting him and not me. It is still unclear why.

They took us off the plane. Haffi started to cry, holding his hands up to his face. They told me that if he didn’t calm down he would be arrested. Somehow, my survival instincts kicked in and I was able to talk them down and get the two of us out of the airport without him being taken away. They told me I could leave on the flight, but ethically there is no logical reason to abandon your partner three days before Christmas in a foreign country to him, so of course I stayed with him.”

James and Haffi were able to find a hotel to stay the night and eventually booked a train ride, that lasted 18 hours, to get to James’ family in Alabama. But what reason did the airline give for kicking Haffi of the plane?
“We still are not exactly sure as they would never give us a clear explanation. That being said, we were looking into this company, an airline called Southwest, and there seems to be an alarming trend of homophobic behavior of some employees. There seems to be a complete disconnect between their corporate office policies and behavior at the customer facing levels.”

On their way home the couple stopped by in Washington D.C. to meet Haffi’s friend.

So James can’t but help speculate if the explanation they were kicked out might be that they are a same-sex couple.
“The main difference between us and other passengers was that we were openly gay. Not in an over the top or publicly disrespectful way, but in a way that we are used to living in a free country like Iceland. We hold hands when we walk together. We might take a brief kiss now and then. And on the flight, Haffi has a tendency to curl again my shoulder and nap. All things which if course are normal between a healthy loving adult couple no matter what part of the sexual spectrum they are, whether straight or gay. When we asked the police officers for a reason they said Haffi threw something at a flight attendant.

But, having seen videos of how police can treat people on a plane, we cooperated and left. Holding Haffi outside the airport as he sobbed asking me just to get him home to Iceland. For the rest of my life I don’t think I will ever be able to forget the pain, fear, and humiliation in his voice.

It’s just so confusing that they would let Haffi through immigration, then back through security. Then he even went through security a second time because he is a smoker and had to go outside the airport to have a smoke. So even going through security twice, then still being let on the plane. Then they say he threw something at a flight attendant. But if they actually believed he had attacked a flight attendant they wouldn’t have hesitated to arrest him and probably me as well. It just doesn’t add up.”

When we contacted James he and Haffi were on another 18 hour train ride back to the airport to fly home to Iceland. Has there been any development in the case, has Southwest offered an apology?
“No not yet. The latest was they referred me to another customer service department for further investigation, but I haven’t heard back yet.”

“In the airport we won’t hold hands, or hug, or share a brief kiss like we did on the way here, and it makes me sad that we have to hide who we are just to feel safe.”

And you did not get a refund?
“No refund. Most likely we will have to contact a lawyer, if it goes similarly as other cases with Southwest. Just this past week a family was denied boarding on their way to Disney world when other passengers accused their child of having head lice. So it seems rather arbitrary when they chose to remove a customer on another customers request.”

How did you guys feel after experiencing this in the States?
“At first I was just so ashamed and saddened, but the more I thought about it, the less surprised I was. When you look at the number of people killed by police in the U.S., almost 1,000 this past year, it’s pretty clear there is a problem with abuse of authority.”

I see from the response to your Facebook statuses that some people have doubted that homophobia is the reason for this treatment, what have you got to say to them?
“Even I wasn’t aware of the extent of increased in violent crimes against same-sex couples and trans people recently. I always want to give people the benefit of the doubt when I interact with them. Some people felt we were being dramatic, but they took an openly proud and visibly same-sex couple off a plane right before Christmas, tried to seperate us, and threatened to arrest Haffi for being too upset. If our crime is simply existing, then the only word we have for this in English is homophobia. It’s just unfortunate that this was Haffi’s first experience in my homeland. It felt like being forced back into the closet.”

The couple look forward to traveling back to Iceland.

So this was Haffi’s first visit to the States – do you think you two will visit there again?
“Most of my family is still there so I know I will go back someday. But currently, we will be so happy just to step back on to Icelandic soil tomorrow. I’ve only been an Icelandic citizen for two months, but the freedom and safety I feel in Iceland, let’s just say I won’t ever take it for granted again after this experience.”

And right now you are on your way to the airport again, do you or Haffi feel anxious?
“Yes, I think it will be a little bit painful or nervous to be back in that same building, especially since last time it was just three armed police men slowly following behind us from a distance till we left the building. But I think once we get to the Wow air waiting area we will feel a little better.

In the airport we won’t hold hands, or hug, or share a brief kiss like we did on the way here, and it makes me sad that we have to hide who we are just to feel safe. I just really hope our coming forward with our story will help anyone traveling to the US soon to understand what they are getting into. And really hope no one else will have this kind of experience again.”

Main photo: James, on the left, and Haffi on board a plane from WOW air, traveling from Keflavík, Iceland to Baltimore.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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