American Airlines has apologized to a passenger who was allegedly ordered to change out of her “offensive” T-shirt — or get off the plane.
Runi Goyal had boarded the Las Vegas-bound flight in Florida on Oct. 30, wearing a T-shirt reading “Hail Satan” and “Est. 666,” above an image of an upside-down cross. And although she wears the shirt often, and that most people usually find it to be silly, a member of the flight crew was reportedly not amused.
“He said, ‘Our crew has found your shirt to be offensive,’” Goyal recently told Buzzfeed News.
Goyal added that she and her husband thought the attendant was joking at first, until she was again told to remove the shirt while another “angry”-looking crew member stood by.
“The gentleman asked me if I understood what ‘offensive’ meant,” Goyal added to the New York Post. “I said, ‘I’m a foreign-born minority woman. I know what my T-shirt means and my T-shirt is not offensive.’”
Goyal – who told Buzzfeed News she does not worship Satan, but is a member of the Satanic Temple (which itself does not believe in a “Satan” figure, but aims to “divorc[e]” religion “from superstition,” per their website) – initially refused until a member of the airline’s customer service staff boarded the plane and informed her she would not be able to fly unless she changed her top.
Goyal eventually complied, swapping out the T-shirt for an extra layer her husband was wearing. She added that she felt “humiliated” by the whole ordeal, but claimed that fellow passengers sympathized with her after watching the incident play out.
She also complained to American Airlines after the flight. They responded, she said, but did not apologize, instead referring to their policies for passenger conduct. (Under the airline’s Conditions of Carriage, “offensive” clothing is not allowed, though American Airlines does not specifically explain what might constitute an offensive piece of clothing.)
Goyal said she felt unsatisfied, explaining to Buzzfeed News that the airline’s policy could be used to target people of specific faiths.
“I think the group that could be most targeted by this are Muslim people, for obvious reasons,” Goyal told the outlet. “I’m an atheist, but I support people’s rights to practice what they believe peacefully.”
Goyal voiced her frustration on Twitter, prompting American Airlines to promise to take a “closer look.” Her supporters on social media also blasted the airline over the alleged incident, with one claiming the flight attendants were acting like “morality police,” and another saying, “This would never had happened if [the] t-shirt had ‘Hail Jesus’ instead.”
“You’re a disgrace and yes, this was religious discrimination,” the Twitter user claimed.
American Airlines has since issued an apology to Goyal, a representative confirmed to Fox News.
“We apologize to Ms. Goyal for her experience, and we are reaching out to her to understand what occurred,” the airline shared in a statement.
Goyal also confirmed to Buzzfeed News that American Airlines eventually refunded her airfare.
“I’m really trying to make some good deeds come out of this. This is really about religious discrimination,” Goyal now tells the Post. “Because they treated me this way, I can only imagine how they’re treating other religious groups like Muslims.”