10-Year-Old Not Allowed To Wear Snake T-Shirt On South Africa Flight

A 10-year-old boy traveling with family in South Africa has reportedly been forced to change his t-shirt before boarding a flight because security staff claimed his top may make staff or passengers anxious. The t-shirt in question had a large graphic print of a snake on it which the boy was forced to turn inside out before boarding.

Security airport staff
The security staff told the boy he was not able to board until he changed his t-shirt. Photo: Getty Images

Snakes on a plane

Stevie Lucas was visiting South Africa from New Zealand with his family to spend time with his grandparents. When attempting to board a flight headed for George, SA, they were told that Stevie would not be able to board wearing his t-shirt and he would have to change.

Security at Johannesburg Airport said that any clothing or toys featuring snakes had could make other passengers or crew anxious. Therefore, Stevie was not allowed to board.


Stevie’s mother told him to turn his t-shirt inside out to prevent any delays in the boarding process. Airport security footage then recorded Stevie changing his top at the gate before boarding the plane.


Johannesburg airport was contacted by local media regarding the event and issued a statement saying that “Security officers have the right to determine if an object has the potential to harm fellow passengers and crew members by causing certain objects or prints to be anxious.”

Upon returning home the Lucas family contacted the Airports Company of South Africa for more information on the incident. The email they received in response to their inquiry said the group was seeking more details from the Johannesburg security team. Additionally, it would provide the family with more feedback regarding clothing restrictions as soon as possible.

Stevie has a keen interest in bugs, snakes, and spiders and took the incident in his stride. The family commented that he even proposed a toast to South Africa on their return home making light of the incident.

Clothing regulations

Young Stevie Lucas is not the only person to have experienced airline clothing restrictions. A woman recently made headlines for attempting to wear romper on an American Airlines flight. According to the Washington Post, the woman was made to use a blanket to cover her legs as the cabin staff deemed the shorts were too short.

The Independent also recently reported another incident where a passenger was forced to remove a t-shirt which included the slogan “Hail Satan”. The passenger stated the t-shirt was meant to be ironic and that she did not belong to a cult.

Since most airlines do not publish detailed clothing restrictions and rules, there is a great deal of flexibility regarding what you can and cannot wear on a flight. In 2017 United Airlines defended its position when it banned two girls from wearing legging on one of its flights. The airline said that the girls, who were traveling as part of a company benefit, were required to be neat and that leggings did not fit this category.

Government Shutdown
Security teams are allowed to prevent passengers from flying if they do not change clothing. Photo: Transport Security Administration

Public response

The media backlash to this incident may have provoked airlines to rethink their clothing policies. However, it is not enough for it to be common practice to detail what passengers can and cannot wear.

Public opinion is generally divided by incidents surrounding restricted clothing on planes. Although, it does seem as if a snake t-shirt would be unlikely to offend or harm any passengers. Airlines are responsible for the well-being of staff and travelers while in the air. However, preventing a 10-year-old from flying because of his t-shirt could be seen as an extreme reaction.

The Lucas family cooperated with the security team and Stevie hid the snake image. Therefore, we will never know if the snake would have been enough to prevent him from flying. But this incident is just another in an increasingly long list of clothing-related issues. Perhaps it’s time for airlines to include official, detailed information about any clothing items which could prevent passengers from boarding.

What do you think of the incident? Was the security team right to force him to change? Should airlines publish clothing regulations? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


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Captain of the ship has the right if passenger does not appropiately dress…in the snake picture on t-shirt..some people have phobias.


I feel it was right that he had to remove the snake shirt just based on the dimming of cabin lights rule. The cabin lights are dimmed for take-off so that passengers eyes get adjusted to the light so that should there be an emergency passenger’s eyes are adjusted to dark light. In an emergency a snake shirt could be misjudged and someone or the boy can be hurt.


Absolute rubbish to force a child to conceal the picture of the snake on his T-shirt. This type of decisionmaking is a sad reflection of the mentality of the people who believe that their perception of the world is right and should be enforced just because they are in charge. No forward or creative thinking there!!!!


Presumptuous of airport and airline staff to assume how people will react to clothing.


Get real,no wonder SAA is in trouble,instead of getting customers they chase them away.Assholes.


The sooner SAA closes it doors the better,instead of trying to get and keep customers they chase them away with stupid and incompetend people and policies.

Shirley Grady

Idiotic in an age of freedom of speech, where sexual orientations, extreme opinions and corrupt politicians are all to be respected, a childs t-shirt is unacceptable on an aeroplane. Some security person trying to look important. So much easier to pick on a child! Some people may have phobias…. He doesn’t!


One has to view this in the context of cultural beliefs. In Africa there are strong fears around the symbol of a snake. My son had a snake as a pet, and when we had a break-in l, one of the policemen was too scared to enter the house. There needs to be a certain degree of sensitivity for our cultural differences and diversity, obviously within reason. So before we judge, let’s ask what the decision was based on.


Yes, the security personnel (in this instance) have the right to control as they please. One could, probably, request to speak to a senior officer … but I would advise against that (Even if real, a large python will not satisfy my idea of a comfort pet).
This may represent that we live in an era of ‘entitled’ people … and aircraft captains decide your entitlement.

Trix Mort

Looking at the photo included, it would have freaked me out. I suffer from severe snake-phobia as well as a mild form of anxiety. If I were seated near him I might have ended up asking the parents the same thing. I can appreciate his passion and I’m sure he knows not everyone feels the same. If you love other people’s monsters you need to accept that you might have to sometimes aknowledge their fears to win them over. Well done parents for not putting up a fight at the airport.


Ridiculous! Knowing how to apply restrictions effectively and when they are appropriate is key. An image is not a life threatening security threat.