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?