As if airline travel wasn't already humiliating, tendentious and excessively micromanaged thanks to the TSA, now airlines are presuming to berate paying passengers for wearing controversial shirts. That's what happened to an anonymous woman who missed her connecting flight after a flight attendant asked the pilot of the plane she'd been on to reprimand the woman for wearing the following T-Shirt (Warning! Strong Language):
Mother Jones reports on this apparent attack of oversensitivity:
The woman boarded her first flight just fine, wearing a T-shirt that read, "If I wanted the government in my womb, I'd fuck a senator." (The shirt was made in response to a signthat an Oklahoma lawmaker made earlier this year to protest a proposed law granting rights to fertilized eggs.) But as the woman was about to deboard to switch to her next flight, a flight attendant approached her and told her that she needed to talk to the captain because her T-shirt was "offensive."
From here, the story gets almost darkly humorous. RH Reality Check reports:
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.
Got that? The airline was so offended by the fact that a passenger had dared to come on-board in a controversial T-shirt that they made her miss her flight. Draconian stuff.
What's even more silly is that the decision didn't even have anything to do with the politics of the shirt. It was only the fact that it included the F-word on it. From Mother Jones' story:
American Airlines media relations representative Tim Smith told Mother Jones via email that it was the language on the shirt, not the message, that prompted the response. "Let me strongly emphasize that the only reason she was asked to cover up her T-shirt was the appearance of the 'F-word' on the T-shirt," he wrote. He pointed to a line in the airline's "Conditions of Carriage" that notes that the airline can refuse to transport a passenger or can remove them from a flight at any point if they "Are clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers."
"[O]ur crew has the final say on any type of garment that could make others uncomfortable," wrote Smith. "Among such issues, we routinely do not allow any garment of any type to display that word."
Okay, fair enough, so it was motivated by a desire to care for the comfort of other passengers, right? They wanted to make sure no one was offended, so they told the woman to change her shirt. Granted, perhaps they took too much time in the process, but it's reasonable enough.
...Well, not exactly. RH Reports adds this very relevant post-script to the story:
So let's review some facts. O. went through security and was stopped for additional screening, but not deemed a "security risk," and no one at TSA made the slightest mention of her t-shirt. She boarded her first flight, and none of the airline personnel at the gate mentioned her t-shirt. She quietly took her seat, wrapped her shawl around herself, and went to sleep.
When her plane landed the flight attendant confronted her and said she had to speak to the captain. At no point did anyone say quietly, hey... could you keep that covered with your shawl? Could you turn it inside out? We have a policy....
Instead, after the plane landed the flight attendant brought her up front where the captain berated her publicly and made her miss her connecting flight. It turns out when she asked if anyone had complained the answer was: NO, Only the flight attendant!
Memo to American Airlines: Air Travel is difficult enough without you micromanaging it. Next time, tell someone wearing a t-shirt like that to turn it inside out. Don't vindictively sabotage their entire travel plan. Especially not over a complaint from a flight attendant.
But then, American Airlines has hired Flight Attendants like this. Their judgment might not be the best: