An odd story out of Phoenix, where a supporter of President Joe Biden was told she had to cover up her pro-Biden sign in order to board her flight on Southwest.
Southwest Airlines Tells Passenger She Must Hide Biden Sign
Jenny Grondahl booked a Southwest ticket from Phoenix (PHX) to San Diego (SAN) and showed up at the gate last Friday with a cardboard sign stating, “Arizonenses Con Biden.” She had obtained the poster during her trip and wanted to frame it.
But a gate agent allegedly told her, “Many customers are offended by your sign,” and asked her to cover it up “with white paper and tape” or fold it and place it under her seat. There is no indication she was waving it or being vocal about her support for Biden. Instead, she was simply carrying it under her arms.
Grondahl complied, but also asked the gate agent what would have happened if she had been wearing a pro-Biden t-shirt. The gate agent replied that she would have had to turn it inside out.
Last Friday I was told by Southwest Air staff “many” passengers complained and were offended by the @joebiden sign I was carrying under my arm. I was told to cover it up or not bring it aboard. I asked what if I was wearing a @potus tee told I’d be asked to turn it inside out. pic.twitter.com/Mvm0mdz7u1
— Jenny Grøndahl (@JennyGrondahl) August 2, 2021
An airplane is not a free speech zone. Nevertheless, I see nothing offensive in the poster or any verbiage in Southwest’s contract of carriage which would reasonably permit the gate agent to censor it. I do get that tempers flares in confined metal tubes and an airplane is generally not the place for politics, but how is that poster any more controversial than a Trump 2020, Biden-Harris, or MAGA hat?
Oh, I do get that such a poster would trigger some passengers who believe the election was stolen (Arizona is ground zero for such conspiracy theories). But that’s on them, not on a passenger merely carrying a Biden sign onboard to transport home.
Southwest Airlines issued a carefully-worded statement that it had reached out to the passenger:
We pride ourselves on providing a welcoming, comfortable, and safe environment for all Customers and Employees regardless of political beliefs. We’re in conversations with the Customer to address her concerns and we hope to welcome her back on a future Southwest flight.
If she was simply carrying the poster without speaking, she is owed an apology.
I don’t think Southwest Airlines should be in the business of telling people to cover up harmless political posters onboard. While I generally refuse to discuss politics on an airplane (I will listen politely if my seatmate insists upon talking), there’s a difference between shouting out your opinion to a captive audience and passively carrying a poster home. Those who cannot handle a Biden or Trump poster should get help.
image: Twitter // H/T: View From The Wing