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
worst president ever
Ya the last guy sure was
RIGHT??? That soaring stock market, plummeting unemployment, economic expansion, massive national immunization, and bipartisan infrastructure deal after countless failed attempts under 45 all just totally SUCK.
Airlines are going to be walking a thin line if they start policing logos on T shirts. Any political or religious symbolism is bound to upset someone. I think the Southwest employee was put on the spot and had to come up with spur of the moment reply that doesn’t match company policy.
There’s no pretense that free speech (or most any other personal liberty) applies on commercial aircraft in the US.
Picture this: you’re boarding in a historically red state where it’s hotter than hades, the air conditioner on the plane is fighting a losing battle against the desert heat, many/most pax are reluctantly muzzled by government edict onboard despite the science behind transmission on planes, and then this lady strolls on with a sign supporting the guy who requires the muzzles. It’s objectively a powder-keg of a situation, and we’ve seen tons of brawls over less. Unfortunately, it’s reasonably foreseeable that things could pop off, so the gate agent made a call which was in their discretion. And I would expect the same for a maga hat on an AS PDX-SEA flight.
It’s sad but it’s the reality that we have all allowed to come fruition.
So it’s come to this? People now simply behave like wild animals with no semblance of civility or manners, and we just have to accept it? And require people not to carry an inoffensive sign/shirt/hat/backpack logo onto a plane because it shows support for a political option with no fowl language, in case a brawl breaks out?
What a sad, sad state of affairs.
I actually think this was a reasonable request. If a passenger had been carrying a large Trump sign, I think that gate agents would have probably acted similarly. It’s best, in my mind, to keep airplanes apolitical to avoid conflict
nailed it…it’s their “store” so they have some rights to enforce reasonable rules. It would not have been hard to cover the sign up just to avoid a confrontation. As for the shirt example, the airlines have been consistent on this. Yes, we can’t escape life without ever being / seeing something we are offended by, but we can sure reduce the spaces where such a possibility can occur.
Anybody who would be offended by that certainly doesn’t speak any language other than English, so perhaps the woman could have just told the offended unvaccinated passengers that “Biden” just means “Freedom” in Spanish (Arizonans for Freedom!). Of course if she admitted to speaking Spanish, they’d probably try to have her deported.
I guess then, the passengers could have just dealt with it, not said anything, and moved on with their lives, but that’s really just a cutesy concept from a bygone era.
I can’t tell you the number of political shirts and hats I have seen on planes, also recently it has almost been 100% for the guy that lost. Some of these flights were on Southwest, I really wish airlines would have consistent published policies that are documented that agents can quickly access, this way you keep the agent and the customer consistent an are both aware of published policies vs them being made up on the spot.
The problem is that Republican snowflakes are more likely to be triggered by anything that is not in support of their leader in exile. I certainly wouldn’t be excited about sitting next to someone in a MAGA hat, because that suggests to me they are more likely to be trying to attract conflict, but I also wouldn’t be complaining that someone was offensive for wearing a stupid hat.
Wait, I thought it was only ‘lefties’ that got easily offended? Odd that the people who support the most offensive man in modern times have the ability to be offended by something. If the situation had been reversed, the person with the Drumpf poster wouldn’t have complied so easily and would have rather have seen the entire airport shut down before they gave up their supreme leader sign and their freedumb. Good on this woman for being a decent human being and taking into consideration everyone flying that day and not dying on the hill for a poster.
Stupid lady wanting attention. No matter who you support, use your social media account or place a sticker in your car but not bring a sign into a plane.
Maybe she was taking it to some kind of event and didn’t want to check it or pay to ship it. I can’t imagine someone doing that to make a bizarre political statement on a flight, especially when tensions are already elevated on planes.
Thar said it doesn’t seem like the sign would meet size regulations for carryons, but if it did and she wasn’t being weird about it there shouldn’t have been an issue. The idea that a few Republican snowflakes found it “offensive” is ridiculous. Although on the other hand, flight attendants jobs are hard enough. The fact that the sign alone was already triggering some people did not bode well for a drama free flight.
So you’d support her if she had a Trump sign?….of course you wouldn’t. She’s went looking for a reaction and got it. Whats the problem?
Believe it or not, my reaction would have been no different with a Trump sign. Thanks.
Thank you Matt. I do appreciate how you approach issues like these neutrally. I also really don’t think she was trying to make a political statement, she just didn’t want to pay the probably not insignificant price to bring that poster home and also wanted to make sure it arrived intact (also who knows, maybe it was gifted to her right before she had to go to the airport where she wouldn’t have had time to ship it home herself, regardless it wasn’t something she was planning to take home with her when she left home).
The only reason that I kind of get why the gate agent did this is that tensions are so elevated on airplanes right now. Assuming the GA wasn’t lying, we have no way of knowing how aggressive the people who complained were. It might have just been an issue of protecting flight attendants from having to deal with a difficult situation in advance. While I usually would view this as ridiculous and absurd, given the facts on the ground it’s not unreasonable to expect things could escalate about it once in the air.
How anyone can support any recent president or senator is beyond me. Our politicians are embarrassing and ruining our country for our children.
I look forward to flight attendants banning MAGA hats and anyone wearing a Trump 2020 shirt. Once election season starts I guess Biden 2024 and Trump 2024 shirts are also banned? Stupidity at full force
Political messaging have no place on a plane where you cannot avoid it if you wanted to.
So the next time I’m flying Southwest out of Houston I can talk about how uncomfortable I feel if I see someone wearing the infamous red hat? I’d probably be the one tossed off, branded a snowflake—or be told to ‘toughen up’ and take a seat.
Agree with the comment above about tensions being high aboard aircraft in the U.S. these days. The author’s point related about the Biden sign being offensive to those who believe the election was stolen misses the mark. There are people who are appalled with the current administration who do not believe the election was stolen. The sign could have been placed in some sort of protective cover. It was not.
Look at the sign carefully. There are 2 creases that appear to be fold lines allowing the poster to be collapsed somewhat. Why open it up and knowingly ruffle feathers? This woman was looking for attention, and she got it.
It is offensive to see that someone is so supportive of the guy with Dementia!!!!
Dee, I know he slurred his speech in recent years, could barely walk down a ramp, and generally acted like a madman…but I thought you liked Trump…? Change of heart?
It’s a tough call and it feels like too often the case, people are looking to cause / trigger a scene. At the same time, if we ban “obscene” language on a shirt or hat, who do we want to be the arbitrator of what is “obscene?” Is it the F word, or the C word or “Trump” or “Biden”? Goes on and on and the last thing we need is for the GAs and the FAs to have to be the on the spot decider. Do they change their mind/ mood if they are flying from one State as compared to another? Where does it end? I know. Why do our best to not provoke? Or, should we not all be allowed to take a stand on things / positions we hold dear to our hearts, the rest be damned? Should we always use any opportunity to champion our cause? Or limit these activities to what are truly public spaces and quit goading for a fight in private spaces? Restraint is called for on both sides. It does sound like the GA/ FA were trying to find a solution and an aircraft is a business workspace that does have some rights as to what goes on in their space. Let’s remember that.
If the lady is allowed to hold up the sign, then you have to allows all others too. So then what happens when someone holds up a KKK sign? Or a Trump sign? Or a “Down with Muslims” sign? Or a “white lives matter” sign? ‘Free’ speech doesn’t equate to ‘offensive’ speech. If you allow a Biden sign you cannot selectively enforce and deny the same right to others that would be deemed offensive. Of course you could not hold a sign encouraging a riot, hijacking, etc.
trump sign would have created a riot for sure, they come out the woodwork to slam him for any reason, get a life!