Huffpost Travel

Debate: Should You Be Able To Do As You Please In The Skies?

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Last week the story of a woman who was removed from an American Airlines flight by pilots because of her offensive clothing became big news. American Airlines issued a statement about the shirt that said the piece of clothing, which read "If I wanted the government in my womb, I'd f--k a senator," was considered too offensive due to the profanity, not because of the pro-choice message.

American Airlines has a clause in its Conditions of Carriage that allows employees to remove customers from a flight if they "are clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers." Other airlines have similar clauses, but unsurprisingly, given how vague and subjective they can be, this instance isn't the first time there's been controversy over its application (See: man wearing woman's underwear; football player kicked off plane for baggy pants; Bille Joe Armstrong's run-in with Southwest Airlines over his hung-too-low pants, et al.)

Nearly 8,000 of you cried out in agreement or shock in response to the conflict, and many of you brought up the question of personal choice during travel. Is the space at 35,000 feet public or private?

Airplanes are a curious combination of public and personal space; on the one hand, we're sharing the same recycled air and close quarters with upwards of several hundred strangers, yet we also settle in for the ride, eat, take off our shoes, sleep (maybe even work in a striptease or two), adding a very personal feel to the seat we occupy for our flight time. As a result, the lines between personal and public space on a plane can blur.

Some of our community members brought up the personal space debate to support this woman's choice of clothing. Others reminded us that an airplane is very public, with children and the elderly sitting just a few seats away.

So, what do you think? Are planes a public space that requires a corresponding level of conduct, rightly enforced by the airline? Or is air travel a private experience, where people should be left to their own devices and choices in food and clothing while they occupy a plane?


Pre-debate poll:

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Airplanes Are Personal Space: We Should Wear What And Act How We Want

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Who makes the better argument?

Planes are personal spaces.
"Since when was there a dress code for flying? If that were the case, most passengers should be kicked off. I see people flying that I feel are inappropriately dressed. We don't need companies deciding these kinds of things. The AA pilot and flight attendent should just do their jobs and remember, they are there to save lives, not dictate a dress code." —gdavidsalmeron
Planes are public spaces.
"The airplane is not the culturally accepted forum for protest. There are certain common sense rules of decorum for places like airplanes, restaurants, etc. It's not subversive or brave to wear a t-shirt like this in these types of places its just tacky and crass, not because of its political message but just because it bears the word F***. If you don't understand why the airline is justified in their actions you will when you grow up." —Funshinez



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Airplanes Are Personal Space: We Should Wear What And Act How We Want


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Filed by Katherine Patke