An IT specialist living in London was refused entry to his flight from Melbourne because of the shirt he was wearing. It wasn’t covered in semtex, dripping explosive water or concealing boxcutters, but it did say WORLD’S # 1 TERRORIST above a photo of George Bush:
It was not the first time Mr Jasson had been told to remove his T-shirt. On December 2, a security guard at London’s Heathrow Airport told him, “You won’t be flying with that on”. Domestic carrier Virgin Blue took the same action when Mr Jasson tried to catch a connecting flight to Adelaide, but on a return flight to Melbourne with Qantas on Friday, he wore the shirt. But when he approached the gate manager at Tullamarine on Friday, he was ordered to take it off. Mr Jasson said he cleared international security checks and arrived at the departure lounge in Melbourne for the flight home when he approached the gate manager. He told the manager that it was “good Qantas relented on the business of the T-shirt” and said he was owed an apology. The manager, then noticing the T-shirt, said Mr Jasson would have to remove it or he couldn’t fly.
A case of freedom of speech being suppressed or is there a good reason for stopping someone flying when wearing a political statement?
A Qantas spokesman said: “Whether made verbally or on a T-shirt, comments with the potential to offend other customers or threaten the security of a Qantas group aircraft will not be tolerated.”
The ‘potential to offend’ is something way too large to police effectively unless you narrow the field down some. Would a ‘Blair is the best PM ever’ t shirt be allowed to fly? Many would find that statement just as objectionable. Is it the use of the word ‘terrorist’ that gets the airlines jumpy? The last time we checked evil-doers tended not to wear their job description across their chests.
And how exactly does a shirt threaten the security of an aircraft? Are Qantas afraid that a bunch of Bush supporters are likely to kick off and put the flight at risk? Is this rule enforced regarding football shirts or any other item of clothing that could spark a clash between rival supporters of… well, anything? Will fur coats be banned from business class in case a member of PETA is on the same flight? What kind of slogan would you have to spot at 30,000 feet to get so riled up as to endanger an aircraft?