What is it about Southwest – the airline that used to use raunchy inuendo and hot-panted flight attendants as advertising messages, and which adopted the stock market symbol LUV as much for the racy implications, as for a reference to its base at Love Field in Dallas; the airline that prided itself on being more cool and less mainstream than most of its competitors?
These days the airline is better known for its regular forays into dress code enforcement, asserting various puritanical but nowhere defined dress standards and refusing to transport passengers who – in the opinion of flight attendants or captains or gate agents – don’t comply with their personal views of what is appropriate.
News has emerged today of Southwest’s latest fashion police patrol, this time claiming that the woman pictured in this article was showing too much cleavage to be allowed on a flight from Las Vegas to New York.
But on this occasion, the enforcement action was by one of the check-in counter agents. The passenger simply ignored the agent’s demand to button up her shirt, and some minutes later walked on the plane without being further noticed by the censorious check-in agent, and got to fly with no further problems. Full details here.
The fact that the woman actually did fly is actually as much a part of the problem as it is a good thing. Because it is the unpredictable unilateral acts of ordinary Southwest employees that is the problem – individuals who suddenly take it upon themselves to impose their own view of what is acceptable to them, and who abuse their positions of minimal authority to force passengers to comply. They are of course aided and abetted in this by a weak ineffective management who passively allows such outrages to occur.
One has to wonder what will happen when a Muslim Southwest employee starts insisting that female passengers wear shawls/head scarves or even burqas. At what point will Southwest’s management finally realize that rogue employees are going too far and start to insist their employees stop imposing capricious dress standards on us all?
If you think the head scarf/burqa requirement will never happen, we’re half-way there already. Not only are we increasingly constrained in our ability to celebrate our country with patriotic songs and flags for fear of upsetting people who curiously simultaneously live in this country and also hate it, but if you read the wording of Southwest’s statement (try to ignore their ridiculous capitalizations) about how its dress code operates (our emphasis added) you’ll see that ‘freedom’ is now being constrained by not causing offense to anyone else.
Our Employees are extensively trained to use their best judgment and exercise discretion when handling any Customer issues or concerns. Regarding what to wear when flying Southwest — We simply ask that our Customers use also use good judgment and exercise discretion in deference to other Customers who depend on us to provide a comfortable travel experience.
The whole concept of freedom, as rough and ugly as it is, is the opposite of how Southwest seeks to constrain it. A free society allows and accepts that some members of it will freely do things which will give offense to other members of the society (and doubtless vice versa) and a free open society accepts this as part of its open diversity.
Shame on Southwest.