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Southwest: Oops, It Did It AGAIN

John Deiner

Okay, this time even Southwest admits it went too far.

If you didn't hear, airline employees once again criticized a passenger's wardrobe as being too risque and threatened to kick said passenger off the plane. The difference this time: It was a guy.

According to a story filed by the Dallas Morning News, "Largo [Fla.] resident Joe Winiecki said he was sitting in the last row of a Columbus-to-Tampa flight when an employee told him he had to change his T-shirt, turn it inside out or get off the plane. The shirt, bought in the Virgin Islands, uses sexual double entendre to promote a fictional fishing tackle shop. The largest lettering reads 'Master Baiter.' Winiecki argued that the airline was violating his right to free speech but changed rather than risk getting kicked off the flight and missing a day of work. 'It's really disappointing in this country when I can't travel from Ohio to Florida with the clothes on my back,' Winiecki said. 'Who's to say what's offensive and what's not?' "

A Southwest spokesman said today the employee made a mistake.

If you remember, student Kyla Ebbert recenlty was told by the airline to cover up what had been deemed a provocative outfit. She complied, then went ranting and raving to any media outlet within earshot about the incident. SWA then apologized and offered her free tickets; she declined.

It's odd that Southwest is the only airline that's been accused of this, isn't it? And this guy's T-shirt actually seems sorta funny, though you wouldn't probably catch me wearing it. Still, it's always surprising to me to see what people are willing to have printed on a T-shirt, and while no examples spring to mind, I'm pretty sure I've seen a lot worse.

What do you guys think?

By John Deiner |  October 5, 2007; 4:15 PM ET  | Category:  Airline Industry , John Deiner
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So crude has morphed into "kinda funny" -- says a lot about what kind of humor you have. And the notion expressed by this passenger that Southwest Airlines was "violating his right to free speech" indicates the passenger is a rather ignorant lout who knows nothing about which he speaks. When will the stupid people learn that the First Amendment DOES NOT apply to anyone but the governmetn. Southwest Airlines may be making a bad business decision, but they have no constitutional obligation to this rude j*ck*ass to let him fly on their airline. I say keep the crude louts off the airline -- those of us who relish the freedom from this kind of obnoxiousness will make up for the jerks who will refuse to fly with you!

Posted by: colorado kool aid | October 5, 2007 4:48 PM

Rule of thumb: If the contents of the shirt can't be printed in a family newspaper, the airline can ask you to turn your shirt inside out. Some people are unable to distinquish between what's appropriate in a bar and what's appropriate in a location serving families and children.

Posted by: Folger | October 5, 2007 5:34 PM

The customer is exactly that a customer. he made a decision to fly with Southwest. I for one applaud Southwest for standing up for some decency in life.

Posted by: Barbara | October 5, 2007 5:40 PM

Am I the only one on the customer's side? Whether or not you find the shirt funny, I fail to see it's offense. Honestly, there are worse things in this world than what's written on a t-shirt. Censorship is just another method of mind control; good luck in 1984.

Posted by: Lyrad | October 5, 2007 6:20 PM

Once again, I don't think that companies have any business in moderating morality. It smacks of the type of censorship that Walmart engages in.

Posted by: Liz | October 5, 2007 6:47 PM

To those on the side of Southwest:
Would it have made any difference if it was a political statement? Ethnic humor? Gender?

The shirt was VERY mild, not indecent, and it could likely be printed in Reader's Digest. Anyone who might object most likely doesn't feel that a person's opinions should be stated in public (unless they agree with their own).

Why do Southwest employees think this is an issue? Would they do this if they worked in a store or a restaurant?

Posted by: ERS | October 5, 2007 11:55 PM

None of this happened before the idiots in charge of the War on Tourism started making us all take off our shoes at the airport.

At places where people have to start getting undressed in public, anything goes with what they choose to wear.

Posted by: Bob | October 6, 2007 6:36 AM

Would you eat brownies with "just a little" dog poop in them? I didn't think so...so why do you pollute your mind and thoughts with crap like what was on his T-shirt?

Posted by: Apostrophe | October 6, 2007 7:50 AM


Is that T-shirt appropriate for all ages? Cause if I have kids on that flight and I happen to have to explain that T-shirt, I'm ticked.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 6, 2007 7:55 AM

The man or woman who gets "ticked" if he has to explain a T-shirt might want to move to have a constitutional amendment banning every blessed thing in the universe that his children don't understand. That'd do it!

Posted by: Comma | October 6, 2007 9:10 AM

I do not speak English as my native language.
I do not understand the problem with this shirt?
My dictionary implies that this person is an expert
at fishing lures, whatever that is.
Am I at risk of being arrested in the USA for
enjoying fishing?
W

Posted by: W | October 6, 2007 9:45 AM

what is wrong with you people ?! nothing wrong with the shirt on a plane. . . are you going to start arresting people on the street for wearing clothes you disagree with? are you the taliban or what? maybe just more ignorant americans who should not be allowed to reproduce !

Posted by: rick | October 6, 2007 12:36 PM

I agree the shirt was offensive and applaud Southwest. I don't think they should have to retract their decision.

As to the quesion of an offensive t-shirt slogan. I distinctly recall seeing a young lady once in DC wearing a t-shirt that said, "Just Do Me!" as a takeoff on the Nike slogan. Wearing such offensive slogans makes the wearer look ignorant, in my opinion. I don't understand why someone would WANT to wear such a thing. Just because we have a legal right to do something doesn't mean one should.

Posted by: L | October 6, 2007 12:52 PM

Being a community member is the highest office any of us can hold. It's not a question of violating someone's rights. Of course he has a right to the shirt. It's a question of failing to benefit his community in the context of people who are going to visit grandma.

I'm grateful that he changed.

Posted by: Piper | October 6, 2007 1:14 PM

I agree with the customer. Where's the offense? Since when was decency spelled out in his airline boarding pass? If you don't like it, don't look at it. As for children, I have to listen to your screaming infant for four hours, why don't you explain that to me?

Posted by: James | October 6, 2007 1:39 PM

Southwest,

Just fly the bus.

Unless it is vulgar, obscene or creates a major problem, just fly the plane from point A to point B.

Or, enforce it at the gate, not once people are onboard the plane. But make sure you start advertising that you are doing it "because all our passengers want it" and be ready to accept the business consequences.

P.S. I love Southwest, usually.

Posted by: Rick Pike | October 6, 2007 3:19 PM

Southwest IS the bus. I agree with the comment about the War on Tourism. We are letting officious cretins get away with far too much. Suppose it's the victory of the Bush administration "all fear, all the time."

And the people who say the shirt is in poor taste. Sure it is. So what? It's his poor taste, not yours. The world has no duty to conform to your standards.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 6, 2007 5:24 PM

From what it sounds like, the printed words themselves didn't constitute an expletive nor a threat. It was a play on words or a pun, even if it's a lame one - as someone else said - there's a lot worse out there. Others may disagree with this guy's sense of humor, but as a practical matter, how many other people would have REALLY been directly impacted and/or offended by this guy or his shirt during the journey? Like the 2-3 people immediately seated near him? Maybe a few choice others who happened to catch a glipse of it while walking by? Frankly a crying baby, an obnoxious loud passenger drinking and misbehaving, and/or a 400-lb passenger sitting next to me overflowing their seat would bother me a lot more than something like this.

Honestly, as a fairly experienced traveler/flyer, it drives me a lot more crazy to see members of the flying public doing other things that greatly put other people's safety or convenience at risk. For instance, people who drink way too much and become loud and obnoxious on a flight (e.g. standing up or getting out of a seat during takeoff/landing or while the "fasten belts" sign is on) - people who sit in the Exit row who shouldn't be medically qualified to do so (either due to age or medical conditions - unfortunately a lot of airlines give this privilege away to a lot of their older, more senior customers without really checking if they're physically able to assist in an emergency), and don't even get me started at all of the horrible choices of footwear people are wearing now on flights and airports (e.g. flip-flops and sandals). Gee, you think you MIGHT get your toes hurt , stepped on, or rolled over in an airport or aircraft setting with lots of people or luggage who are disoriented, distracted, and/or wheeling large and heavy items around in close quarters? Might make sense to wear some enclosed footwear for an occasion like that...

Posted by: DB | October 6, 2007 5:34 PM

If you don't understand why this shirt is inappropriate in polite society, you're part of the problem. I blame your parents for never teaching you right from wrong, and the mediocre school system from which you were dumped into society without a sense of propriety.

Posted by: Apostrophe | October 7, 2007 11:16 AM

It comes down to a question of who decides to keep society polite and proper. Is it those in authority, be it the government, the airlines, the media, the management, etc. who have the responsibility to regulate what is "polite society?" Or is it society, the communities of citizens, who decide what is acceptable, what is unacceptable, and what to do about it? In AMERICA, we are supposed to be by the people, of the people, and for the people. The people, not the government or the airlines or the police, even. The people. Democracy, remember? BTW- this is a great learning experience for the children we are so desperately trying to shield from this offensive shirt. Why not have an open conversation about "polite society" and "a sense of propriety." I bet you will find they have lots of ideas, and encouraging them to THINK instead of blindly follow what those in authority dictate will encourage the intellectual growth this country so desperately needs. As is evident by this crass clothing and the overblown response to it.

Posted by: Venus | October 7, 2007 3:07 PM

We let politicians decide what we can wear to events paid for with our tax dollars.

So why not let big business decide what we can wear on aircraft for which we've paid for tickets?

I've been tracking t-shirt-related events for a while now. Here's a partial list of outrages.

-- Emily

Posted by: armadill | October 7, 2007 3:22 PM

"Rule of thumb: If the contents of the shirt can't be printed in a family newspaper, the airline can ask you to turn your shirt inside out. Some people are unable to distinquish between what's appropriate in a bar and what's appropriate in a location serving families and children."

Didn't they just print it in the Washinton Post?? I see no problem with the shirt. Let it be. Where do we draw the line? I'm muslim, if I wear a shirt praising Allah am I to be looked at differently? I may offend a Catholic, does that mean I have to take my shirt off.

Big Brother is watching and it is only going to get worse.

Posted by: Mikhial | October 7, 2007 8:48 PM

Hey you kids, Git off my LAWN.....

You yonguns use curse word....

Stop making that noise.....

Why in my day you wore a teeshirt under your dress shirt with a tie and jacket...

Posted by: Christopher | October 7, 2007 11:28 PM

how do you people get so worked up about this? SWA doesn't have a dress code - end of story! whether or not you like his shirt he was within the bounds set by SWA and the airport. why let his shirt get to you so much? some people seem disproportionately angry at this man and his silly t-shirt.

Posted by: amused | October 8, 2007 12:51 PM

For those offended by this shirt, do you ask random people on the street to turn their shirts inside out because you don't want to have to explain it to your child? What about if you're in line at Burger King? Or on the metro?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 8, 2007 2:29 PM

"I do not speak English as my native language.
I do not understand the problem with this shirt?
My dictionary implies that this person is an expert
at fishing lures, whatever that is.
Am I at risk of being arrested in the USA for
enjoying fishing?
W

Posted by: W | October 6, 2007 09:45 AM "

To those who are wondering how to explain it to your children - see above - if they catch the double entrendre, then you don't need to explain it because the 'child' already knows. If you are shocked your child already knows, well...

Posted by: Anonymous | October 8, 2007 3:10 PM

Please turn your christian themed shirts inside out - I was raised to believe that christian themes are inappropriate. I'm imposing this on you and you have to submit.

Don't agree? Of course not.

Posted by: no crosses | October 8, 2007 7:08 PM

Hilarious. I fish in south florida where the local tackle/bait shop is called MASTER BAIT & TACKLE. It is a small little place that does sell some merchandise. It has been there for decades and I even have a shirt. Now maybe it is because I am a girl, but honestly, I didnt even notice the double entendre at first. I still wear the shirt, it's one of my favorite long sleeves. However, I always travel with a jacket even if I were wearing my fishing shirt!

Up Deep Sea Fishing!

Posted by: Renee | October 10, 2007 11:32 AM

Could you remind me who said, I might not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

On the other hand, Southwest as a private business should be able to set the standards they wwant for their privately run airline. I personally can't wait for them to return to their original roots: very short mini-skirts and the push-up bra - turned inside out, of course.

Posted by: Hymie Voltaire | October 10, 2007 11:35 AM

I just checked SW Airlines website and didn't see their dress code documented there. So how am I to know what is the standard? As a customer I am confused.

Posted by: Ann Barnes | October 10, 2007 11:57 AM

Southwest has stepped way over the line on both accounts. If they want to advertise as a family friendly airline with RULES, then they better set them out or someone is going to finally take them to court. I believe we live in America, though sometimes I doubt it. I know we can't yell FIRE in a theater, but censorship by airline stewards is going too far. Print the policy or don't have one.

Posted by: Terry Rodeghier | October 10, 2007 2:33 PM

Hmm. People expressing outrage that other people are outraged at other people's outrage. What an outrage. Frankly, it not your or my business, This was between the man and the airline. Those saying the airline should MYOB should take their own advice. Then maybe get a life. Stupidity knows no bounds (you, not the T-shirt guy).

Posted by: Anonymous | October 10, 2007 2:34 PM

"Hmm. People expressing outrage that other people are outraged at other people's outrage. What an outrage."

This is the best yet! I am outraged that you have so little sympathy for the outrage of people who are outraged , but are full of outrage against the outrage of people who are full of outrage for the outraged.

Overall this is the most outrageous situation I have ever encountered.

Posted by: ERS | October 10, 2007 5:35 PM

He should have put the shirt back on as soon as the plane took off. However he should have been real careful not to say anything threatening or abusive towards the airline employees, even though they provoked him in this case. They can't throw him off the plane in mid-flight, and he hasn't broken any laws by changing his shirt, he can't be arrested.

The passenger is not a guest on Southwest. Southwest is a guest at an airport which is owned by the passenger, and by other members of the public. Southwest is the one who should be conforming to their hosts' standard of behavior, not the passenger who boards their plane.

Posted by: Dominick | October 11, 2007 7:15 AM

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