I can see a rationale for allowing airlines to kick people they suspect might be physicially dangerous off of planes. But what can possibly be the explanation for this?
[O]n the plane of the first leg of my flight home, I spent the majority of [time] sleeping, using my shawl as a blanket. Right before we were set to land the flight attendant from first class approaches me and asks if I had a connecting flight? We were running a bit behind schedule, so I figured I was being asked this to be sure I would make my connecting flight. She then proceeded to tell me that I needed to speak with the captain before disembarking the plane and that the shirt I was wearing was offensive.
The shirt was gray with the wording, "If I wanted the government in my womb, I'd fuck a senator." I must also mention that when I boarded the plane, I was one of the first groups to board (did not pass by many folks). I was wearing my shawl just loosely around my neck and upon sitting down in my seat the lady next to me, who was already seated, praised me for wearing the shirt.
When I was leaving the plane the captain stepped off with me and told me I should not have been allowed to board the plane in DC and needed to change before boarding my next flight. This conversation led to me missing my connecting flight. I assumed that because I was held up by the captain, they would have called ahead to let the connecting flight know I was in route. Well, upon my hastened arrival at the gate of the connecting flight, it was discovered that they did indeed call ahead but not to hold the flight, only to tell them I needed to change my shirt. I was given a seat on the next flight and told to change shirts.
Due to the fact that my luggage was checked, changing shirts without spending money wasn't an option. I consulted a friend with a law background who told me covering with my shawl would suffice. Upon boarding the now rescheduled flight with shawl covering my shirt, my ticket dinged invalid. I was pulled to the side while the gentleman entered some codes into the computer and then told, "it was all good." I did finally arrive home to pick up my daughter an hour and a half later than scheduled.
I find it very hard to believe this is standard procedure for anyone who has the word "fuck" on his or her t-shirt. In fact, I know it isn't since the last time I was traveling I sat next to a kid who had a "fuck you I'm from Philly" t-shirt on. Nobody said anything.
If American Airlines thought it was the word that was offensive, you'd think they would have simply told her to cover it up instead of personally harassing her and demanding that she change the shirt. (And why was the pilot involved in that?) So I'm guessing it was more the message than the word. And the last I heard, the Airline exemption from free speech only applies to threats. I don't think there have been any pro-choice groups crashing airliners recently.
You have to wonder if they have decided to police all political speech, leaving it up to the discretion of the pilot, attendant or whomever objects to it. Do you suppose they would have kicked someone off the plane for wearing a shirt that said this?
Update: Apparently AA's rules do state that they can kick off any passenger who is "clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers." No word on who decides what that might be. I guess it's left to the individual attendant or pilot to decide. Good to know. Best keep all opinions to yourself when you're flying.
Once again, I'm reminded how airplane travel is now training for good little citizens who ask no questions and immediately do exactly what they're told by anyone in a uniform. I can't recall where I read it, but apparently Europeans often wonder what's wrong with Americans who just start stripping and removing their shoes before they go through security in foreign airports. They don't even question it, just start doing it like trained seals, even if nobody around them is doing the same thing.
h/t to @ImprimereLLC