An American Airlines passenger flying from Key West, FL to Las Vegas, NV in October was forced by the airline crew to cover her black T-shirt during the flight because it featured the text, “HAIL SATAN Est. 666” and an upside-down cross.
Swati Runi Goyal, 49, is an atheist and member of the Satanic Temple. (Although officially recognized as a church, TST is a non-theistic and non-Satan-worshipping organization known for activism on issues such as separation of church and state, free speech, and religious freedom. Goyal bought the shirt to support the organization.)
“It’s an ironic shirt,” Goyal told BuzzFeed News (who originally reported the story). “People usually laugh at it, or they give me a thumbs up because they understand the meaning behind it.”
After Goyal and her husband were seated before takeoff, a crew member approached her and told her she had to change or get off the plane.
“He said, ‘Our crew has found your shirt to be offensive,’” said Goyal. “We initially just thought it was a joke. But he repeated the directive, and there was another female crew member who was behind him with her arms crossed looking very angry.”
Goyal and her husband refused to get off the plane.
“The man said, ‘Your shirt is offensive. Do you know what that means?’” Goyal said. “I said, ‘I’m a foreign-born minority woman, I understand ‘offensive,’ and this shirt is not offensive.’”
The crew members delayed takeoff and brought a customer service agent on board to reiterate that she could not fly in the “Hail Satan” shirt. Fortunately, her husband had two layers on, so he lent one to her.
With the text of the shirt covered up, the crew allowed her to remain on the flight. Still, she said the crew avoided eye contact with her for the remainder of the flight, even ignoring her when the drink cart came around.
Following the flight, Goyal contacted American Airlines to complain. A customer service rep emailed Goyal back, saying that they “have policies in place to ensure that no passengers are subjected to objectionable situations while on board.” Goyal was told that her email had been forwarded to the vice president of flight service, but she didn’t hear from the airline again until she tweeted about her experience.*
“Discrimination has no place at American Airlines,” the company replied on Twitter, adding that it would investigate further and then reach back out to her. The airline later called Goyal and offered to refund both tickets, and assured her that the investigation remained ongoing.
*OP note – I tried to find her tweet but her account is protected.