As most of you know by now, airlines can give numerous reasons for not allowing someone to fly. Trying to board the plane with something that’s not approved by security, acting strangely, a carry-on bag that’s not regulation size… that sounds about right. But a violation of dress code? Are we all in high school again?
A woman flying from Las Vegas on Southwest this spring says she was confronted by an airline employee for showing too much cleavage. In another recent case, an American Airlines pilot lectured a passenger because her t-shirt bore a four-letter expletive, but she was allowed to keep flying after draping a shawl over the shirt. Because airlines don’t have a dress code posted publicly, it leaves many people guessing how far is too far.
Last week, Arijit Guha, a graduate student at Arizona State University, was barred from a Delta flight in Buffalo, New York, because of a t-shirt that mocked federal security agents and included the words, “Terrists gonna kill us all.” He says the misspelled shirt was satirical and he wore it to protest what he considers racial profiling.
So if you’re wondering if the fashion police are going to be right next to the security guards, rummaging through your bags and judging your outfit, that probably won’t be the case. And what if someone confronts you about your outfit and tells you to change clothes or else… is that a violation of your rights?
According to this article by the Huffington Post, the airlines enforcing a dress code isn’t a violation of anyone’s rights. American and Delta are perfectly within their rights to make the passengers change shirts, even if messages are political, says Joe Larsen, a First Amendment lawyer from Houston who has defended many media companies. The First Amendment prohibits government from limiting a person’s free-speech rights, but it doesn’t apply to rules set by private companies, Larsen says. He notes that government security screeners didn’t challenge Guha; private Delta employees did. In short, since airlines and their planes are private property and not a public space like the courthouse steps, crews can tell you what to wear.
Reading this article reminded me of a situation while I was waiting tables… a man came in to eat wearing a very offensive shirt that was obviously pro-life. Due to the graphic imagery on the shirt, my manager walked by and told him that he would have to leave unless he changed his shirt. Of course, the man became very upset and started yelling about how his rights were being violated, but my manager told him the same thing: we’re a private business, and we can refuse service to anyone. I can’t imagine that for one second, the guy thought that he would be getting away with wearing a shirt like that at a place where people are eating. Of course, my manager asking him to change shirts wasn’t a political issue, if the shirt had simply said something about his opinions, it would have been fine. The fact that his shirt displayed some offensive imagery was another story… which is probably why the woman wearing the pro-choice shirt with an expletive was told to cover it up.
Personally, I understand the airlines’ position and (unless they ban my favorite airport sweatpants and sunglasses), I see no problem with a dress code being enforced. I would imagine that unless you’re planning on wearing your favorite “F#CK EVERYONE” shirt or letting your boobs hang out of your dress, you probably won’t have anything to worry about. The whole situation seems that they’re really just trying to keep other passengers from complaining. After all, these people have a job to do… and at the airport, people complain about pretty much everything already. I don’t really think that they want one more thing (my wardrobe) to worry about. Of course, I would imagine that the enforcement will probably be pretty inconsistent, as someone probably won’t always be around to make sure each airplane departs the terminal cleavage-free. I only wish that Wal-Mart would enforce a dress code… goodness, the things I see at Wal-Mart. But that’s a whole other story.
What do you think, Lovelies?