|A woman's flight home was stopped short because of the message on the T-shirt she was wearing. KRNV's Colin Hackman reports (October 6)
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Southwest Airlines kicked a woman off one of its flights over a political message on her T-shirt, the airline confirmed Thursday, and published reports say the passenger will sue.
Lorrie Heasley, of Woodland, Wash., was asked to leave her flight from Los Angeles to Portland, Ore., Tuesday for wearing a T-shirt with pictures of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a phrase similar to the popular film title "Meet the Fockers."
A spokesman for Southwest Airlines (down $0.03 to $15.18, Research) told CNN that the airline used the "common sense" approach when they decided to escort Heasley from the plane in Reno, Nevada, during a stopover between Los Angeles and Portland, Ore.
The airline felt that the T-shirt was offensive and that other passengers would be outraged by it, the spokeswoman said, adding that the incident is about "decency."
"I have cousins in Iraq and other relatives going to war," Heasley told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "Here we are trying to free another country and I have to get off an airplane in midflight over a T-shirt. That's not freedom."
According to the airline spokeswoman, Heasley was asked to leave after she refused to cover up her T-shirt, an account that conflicts with Heasley's version in the Gazette-Journal.
Heasley told the newspaper that she agreed to cover her shirt with a sweatshirt, but it slipped as she slept. After she was ordered to wear her T-shirt inside-out or leave, she and her husband chose to leave, the paper said.
The 32-year-old lumber saleswoman said in the report that no one from Southwest said anything about the shirt while she waited near the gate at Los Angeles International Airport, nor did anyone mention the shirt as she boarded the aircraft.
Southwest Airlines (down $0.03 to $15.18, Research) spokeswoman Marilee McInnis told the Gazette-Journal that the airline's contract with the Federal Aviation Administration contains rules that say the airline will deny boarding to any customer whose conduct is offensive, abusive, disorderly or violent or for clothing that is "lewd, obscene, or patently offensive."
FAA spokesman Donn Walker told the newspaper that no federal rules exist on the subject.
"It's up to the airlines who they want to take and by what rules," he was quoted as saying. "The government just doesn't get into the business of what people wear on an aircraft."
Heasley wants Southwest to reimburse her and her husband for the last leg of their trip and pay for her gasoline, a $68 rental car from Avis and a $70 hotel bill, according to reports.
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