Aug 24 2012

Does an airline pilot have the right to refuse to let you fly?

Last Saturday, Arijit Guha, a Ph.D. student at Arizona State University trying to fly back from Buffalo to Phoenix with his wife after a family funeral, was kept off a Delta Air Lines flight because …  well, as usual in such cases, we don’t know exactly why.

You can read Arijit’s story in his own words here. At first, a Delta supervisor objected to the parody t-shirt (with a design by Cory Doctorow originally published on BoingBoing) that Arijit was wearing.

After Arijit changed his t-shirt (and after he was interrogated, searched, and subjected to racist and xenophobic comments by multiple TSA staff and local police), “the Delta supervisor informed us the pilot had decided, regardless of the outcome of the multiple TSA screenings and my willingness to change shirts, that due to the discomfort my shirt has caused, my wife and I would not be allowed to board the aircraft. Passengers on the plane supposedly felt uncomfortable with my very presence on the flight. And the Delta manager went out of his way to point out that he wholeheartedly agreed with the pilot’s decision.”

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, what are your rights?

As long as you’ve paid for a ticket and complied with all valid rules in the airline’s published tariff, you have a right to travel. That’s what it means for an airline to be licensed as a “common carrier”.

Your right to travel is guaranteed by, in ascending order of precedence, Federal law, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and international human rights treaties: Read More