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I picked this story up from USAToday. In a brilliant move, Southwest Airlines booted this woman off their flight during a layover. Wasn't that sweet of them.
Woman bounced from Southwest flight for T-shirt
By Susan Voyles, Reno Gazette-Journal
RENO — A Washington state woman intends to press a civil-rights case against Southwest Airlines for booting her off a flight in Reno after fellow passengers complained about a message on her T-shirt.
Lorrie Heasley, of Woodland, Wash., was halfway home on a flight Tuesday that began in Los Angeles, wearing a T-shirt with the pictures of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a phrase similar to the popular film, Meet the Fockers.
Heasley said she wore the T-shirt as a gag. She wanted her parents, who are Democrats, to see it when they picked her up at the airport in Portland, Ore.
"I just thought it was hilarious," said Heasley, 32, a lumber saleswoman.
And she felt she had the right to wear it.
"I have cousins in Iraq and other relatives going to war," she said. "Here we are trying to free another country and I have to get off an airplane in midflight over a T-shirt. That's not freedom."
Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said the T-shirt became an issue after several passengers complained. She said the airline's contract filed with the Federal Aviation Administration contains rules on passenger conduct.
Heasley said no one from Southwest said anything about the shirt when she waited two hours near the gate at Los Angeles International Airport. And neither the pilot, nor other crewmembers, said anything when she boarded the aircraft, Heasley added.
After the plane stopped in Reno at noon Tuesday, she and her husband, Ron, moved to the front of the plane. Passengers began complaining about the T-shirt as they boarded.
After several conversations with flight attendants, Heasley agreed to cover the words by cuddling up with a sweatshirt. When the sweatshirt slipped while she was trying to sleep, she was ordered to wear her T-shirt inside-out or leave. The couple chose to leave.
McInnis said the rules filed with the FAA say the airline will deny boarding to any customer whose conduct is offensive, abusive, disorderly or violent or for clothing that is "lewd, obscene, or patently offensive."
Allen Lichtenstein, lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in Nevada, said Heasley's T-shirt is "protected" political speech under the Constitution. The real issue, he said, is that the airline allowed her to wear the shirt onboard and then objected only when people complained.
"That they changed rules in the middle of a flight simply because someone didn't like it and it might be problematic," he said.
FAA spokesman Donn Walker said no federal rules exist on the subject.
"It's up to the airlines who they want to take and by what rules," he said. "The government just doesn't get into the business of what people wear on an aircraft."
"At any point when a passenger has a complaint against another and it becomes an issue that could disrupt the flight, our attendants have the discretion to take the appropriate action," said Phil Gee, spokesman for US Airways.
Heasley said she is in touch with ACLU lawyers in Seattle. She wants Southwest to reimburse the couple for the last leg of their trip and pay for her gasoline, a $68 rental car from Avis and a $70 hotel bill.
Before leaving the plane, she said she was told the airline would reimburse her for the tickets for the last leg of the flight. After they got off the plane, they were told they'd be reimbursed only for the taxes on the tickets. McInnis said customer services officials are looking into the matter.
After fighting over the ticket prices, the couple got a hotel room in Reno, rented a car and got home Wednesday afternoon — about 24 hours after they left the plane.
"I have always flown Southwest everywhere I go," Heasley said. "I will never fly with them again. They can disrespect somebody else."
It's funny. I was watching Boston Legal the other night and they addressed this very same issue, corporate censorship. It's utterly and completely ridiculous. Southwest Airlines needs to grow some cahoneys and do the right thing. What they did to this paying customer is absolutely ridiculous. She did nothing wrong, she did hurt anyone, she merely had the decency to wear clothes while she flew and they didn't happen to like the tshirt.
posted by Stithmeister @ 7:59 PM
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Okay, I will never fly Southwest again. What happened to freedom of speech? I don't think it exists anymore
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Actually, i'm not going to argue against Southwest for requiring someone to cover up a shirt that said "Fuck" because it was offending other passengers (who said so). Southwest has the right and obligation to guard those passengers' interests.
But i think that this woman needs to buy another ticket on Southwest, and board wearing an anti-Bush shirt with no swearwords - i have seen some that call him 'warmonger', 'murderer', 'liar', etc. Offensive, but not any of Carlin's famous words.
If she gets thrown off or arrested for the public proclaiming of opposition to the President not worded in 'offensive' speech -
THEN you have a news story worthy of immediate press conferences and essays upon the chilling effect of governmental economic choices on the First Amendment through private corporations.
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I'm currently working in the telecomm industry but one of my passions is still politics.
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