Southwest Airlines said it plans to apologize to a Florida passenger after an employee forced him to change out of a sexually suggestive T-shirt or risk getting thrown off the plane.
The incident Sunday in Columbus, Ohio, came after Southwest Airlines created a public uproar by telling a woman on a flight in July that her outfit was too revealing for her to fly.
Largo 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?”
Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said the employee made a mistake.
“It was inappropriate for our employee to approach Joe,” he said. “We don’t have a dress code. Only in extreme situations would we want to address this to our customers.”
The issue of in-flight attire moved into the national spotlight when San Diego college student Kayla Ebbert showed up for a Southwest flight in July wearing a denim miniskirt and a summer sweater over a tank top.
An employee objected and asked her to change or leave the plane and get new clothes. Ebbert was allowed to fly after agreeing to alter her outfit. The airline later apologized and tried to make light of the mix-up in humorous advertising.