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.
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.
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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.
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Since most airlines do not publish detailed clothing restrictions and rules, there is a great deal of flexibility regarding what you can and cannot wear on a flight.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.
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.