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Chick-fil-A scraps plan to open at San Antonio airport despite city’s reversal amid FAA intervention

Chick-fil-A scraps plan to open at San Antonio airport despite city’s reversal amid FAA intervention

Drive-through customers wait in line at a Chick-fil-A restaurant on August 1, 2012, in Fort Worth, Texas. | Getty Images/Tom Pennington

Chick-fil-A confirmed this week that the company has canceled plans to open a restaurant at San Antonio International Airport in Texas.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the Christian-owned fast-food chain said the company won’t pursue plans at this time to open a restaurant in the airport after city officials last year blocked its plans do so, prompting complaints from the state’s attorney general, the passing of new state law, and an FAA investigation. 

"While we are not pursuing a location in the San Antonio airport at this time, we are grateful for the opportunity to serve San Antonians in our 32 existing restaurants,”  Chick-fil-A said in a statement Monday, according to The Associated Press

"We are always evaluating potential new locations in the hopes of serving existing and new customers great food with remarkable service.”

In March 2019, the San Antonio City Council voted to remove Chick-fil-A from a concession agreement with San Antonio International Airport amid unproven accusations of “anti-LGBT behavior.” 

The city’s move came as the Chick-fil-A Foundation received media scrutiny for donating to Christian organizations, including the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which uphold biblical teachings on marriage — a union between one man and one woman.

Additionally, the company’s head, Dan Cathy, has in the past stated his opposition to same-sex marriage, which has, over the years, led to Democrat politicians and far-left groups calling for boycotts against the restaurant chain. 

The city council’s decision drew the ire of Texas Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton, who last March asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to look into whether city officials had unlawfully discriminated against the company "due to the expression of the owner's religious beliefs." 

Paxton asked for a determination as to whether city officials broke federal law and department regulations. 

On Monday, Paxton’s office announced that the FAA reached an information resolution with the city of San Antonio. A statement from the state attorney general’s office said San Antonio International Airport will offer Chick-fil-A a lease opportunity for space in Terminal A. 

Paxton praised the resolution, saying it was a “win for religious liberty in Texas." The FAA formally announced the resolution in a letter to Paxton on Sept. 10.

The letter from the FAA explained that within 45 days, Chick-fil-A was to be offered a lease opportunity in Terminal A and that the new offer will be “consistent with customary business practices.”

“In addition, the FAA will continue to monitor the City’s implementation of the above steps to ensure that they are completed in a timely, reasonable, and fair manner,” the letter reads. “In the event that they are not, FAA will reopen its complaint investigation, which may result in the finding of a violation of relevant nondiscrimination authorities.”

The city was quick to shoot down the attorney general's announcement that included the headline: "City of San Anto­nio Ordered to Lift Ban on Chick-fil‑A at Inter­na­tion­al Airport," arguing that the city was not “ordered to lift [its] ban on Chick-fil-A” at the airport. 

In a statement provided to local news outlet KSAT, the city argued that 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 stated, referring to Chick-fil-A’s decision last year to change its charitable giving structure to no longer give to the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. 

“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.”

The city’s statement also called Paxton’s comments “inaccurate” and said that he has not “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,” the city’s statement contends. 

Last July, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill into law, legislation that bans local governments from taking “adverse” actions against companies or individuals based on their religious beliefs or donations to religious groups.

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

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