Here’s Why You Don’t (And Shouldn’t) Have “Freedom Of Speech” On A Plane

Filed Under: Advice, JetBlue

This seems to be the month where passengers just can’t for the life of them behave on planes. Yesterday we saw someone removed from a Delta flight between London and New York, and today a passenger was removed from a JetBlue flight that Ivanka Trump and her family were on.


Here’s what happened, per TMZ:

Ivanka was on a JetBlue flight leaving JFK Thursday morning with her family when a passenger started screaming, “Your father is ruining the country.” The guy went on, “Why is she on our flight. She should be flying private.” The guy had his kid in his arms as he went on the tirade.

A passenger on the flight tells TMZ Ivanka ignored the guy and tried distracting her kids with crayons.

JetBlue personnel escorted the unruly passenger off the flight. As he was removed he screamed, “You’re kicking me off for expressing my opinion?!!”

Regardless of where you stand politically, this is unacceptable. Furthermore, I think it’s specifically worth addressing the last point, about being “kicked off for expressing [your] opinion.”

You don’t have “freedom of speech” or the right to say whatever you want on a plane… and you shouldn’t. Tiffany put this really well in the comments section of a post yesterday, and I think it’s worth reposting here:

The First Amendment does not apply to people speaking anything on airplanes. Like all those enumerated in the Bill of Rights, “freedom of speech” is part of the contract between the United States Government and its citizenry, and does not apply to interactions between a private company and a private citizen.

That Trump supporter calling people “Hillary B******” on a plane the other week? Not exercising any “free speech” that needs to be tolerated or protected, much less on an airplane. Just being disruptive, and it seems pretty much everyone here agreed that he shouldn’t have been allowed to fly.

(Sorry, this is a pet peeve of mine. There’s a trend of claiming “free speech” as permission to be an asshat that I find disconcerting, and fear will desensitize people to actual violations of their rights. It’s the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that you’re looking for here, if anything.)

Passengers frequently are (and should be) kicked off planes for being disruptive. Planes can be tense environments, as situations can escalate much more quickly on planes than they would on the ground. You’re stuck in tight quarters with other people, and a diversion would be costly, both in terms of time and money. In many cases a diversion isn’t even possible, like when you’re crossing an ocean. That’s why it’s important for airlines to address these types of situations before they become problems.

Furthermore, airlines specifically address this in their contracts of carriage. For example, here’s what JetBlue’s contract of carriage says, which you agree to when you buy a ticket:

F. Comfort and Safety – In the following categories where refusal or removal may be necessary for the comfort or safety of the Passenger(s) or other Passengers:

(1) Persons whose conduct is or has been known to be disorderly, abusive, offensive, threatening, intimidating violent, or whose clothing is lewd, obscene, or patently offensive;

Bottom line

We all have strong opinions about things, but airplanes aren’t the place to express them. There’s no such thing as “freedom of speech” in the context of interactions between private citizens, just as you can’t yell “fire” in a theater. Even within that context, airplanes are especially a place where you should censor yourself.

While it’s horrible how racism and other factors sometimes lead to people unfairly being removed from planes (and it’s something airlines need to get better about), you absolutely deserve to be removed from a plane if you’re expressing your opinions in a way that’s disorderly, abusive, offensive, etc.

I think that’s common sense to 99.99% of us, so it always amazes me how many people don’t understand that a plane isn’t the place to go on a rant against someone else.

  1. Why is she flying commercial though? It seems that all the Trump kids fly commercial. It is definitely not because they like to keep a low profile!!

    Could it be that Daddy Dearest doesn’t have nearly enough money as he claims he does?

  2. Oh, he had the freedom of speech to say what he wanted to say. He just doesn’t have freedom from the consequences of that speech, as he learned. The hard way.

  3. Another Crooked Hillary, Bernie Sanders, racist Barack Insane Obama smelly dog—-may that unruly man be banned from flying for 20 years.

  4. @Bob

    No Bob. Ivanka is not like Moochelle “no hope” Obama that flies to Hawaii with her race-bating entourage on your tax dime, hating whites.

  5. Guy is lucky the secret service agents with her didn’t get physical.

    I agree, Freedom of Speech is not a blanket right you get. Can’t yell fire in a crowded movie theater, probably can’t yell bomb or gun at the TSA checkpoint. And no, the color of your skin doesn’t matter. If you’re being disruptive they have the right to remove you.

    Also note that not all of these incidents happen on American soil. First amendment doesn’t apply overseas.

  6. I’ve seen people removed from sporting events, movie theatres, concerts, restaurants and even hospital waiting rooms for being “disruptive,” all for valid reasons. Some of the worst offenders show up at sporting venues. In those cases it’s easy to leave but on an airliner at 35000 feet you can’t get away from this nonsense. I’m glad the airlines have wide latitude to police these situations.

  7. Freedom of speech or 1st amendment in the US constitution is applicable only to the federal government in that it cannot restrict speech. Airlines can restrict speech in their private properties just like we can restrict speech in our private properties like our house.

  8. As much as I don’t like Ivanka’s father, screaming at her (really, screaming at anyone) on a plane is grounds for removal. Period.

    And as much as I dont like her father, she’s allowed to fly with her family in relative peace and quiet.

  9. Despicable behavior. I am so sick of people like that Trump supporter who was banned by Delta, this guy who went after Ivanka, and that Adam person who deliberately disrupted his flight.

    @Melissa –

    You’re right up there with them. I can easily imagine you huffing & puffing your way down an aisle and going off on one of your psycho political tirades because you saw someone wearing a Hillary tee shirt.

    @Bob –

    It’s not up to you to determine how Ivanka–or anyone else–chooses to travel.

    Ok. I’m done.

  10. What ever happened to “when they go low, we go high”? Not to mention preventing “triggering” (sic), creating “safe spaces”, and advocating “inclusion and diversity”? Oh, I forgot, Republicans are so evil, none of this applies to them.

    Just imagine the uproar if someone wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat had done the exact same thing to Chelsea Clinton.

    I’m so old I can remember when I was proud to say “I’m a Democrat”. Now, not so much. 🙁

  11. I love how Republicans are like ‘oh, see? Democrats are just as bad.’

    Republicans would shill for Hitler and claim opposition to him is a spoiled brat for, you know, taking issue.

  12. I’m sorry… Offensive? There is someone out there capable of being offended at everything you might say. Freedom of speech should not be taken away just because of where you are. This is one place I disagree with you deeply.

  13. Unruly passengers shouldn’t be removed from the flight, they should simply be tased multiple times until their behavior improves

  14. @ Nate — I get where you’re coming from, but there’s no “freedom of speech” being taken away here — those protections don’t apply between private parties. For reference, here’s the full text of the First Amendment:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Now, there are laws preventing discrimination based on who you are, but no private entity has to tolerate how you choose to act.

  15. Sigh… when you get on the plane, we all are going somewhere and let do it in peace. That mean, keep your opinion to yourself. I dont want to hear them even I might agree with you. Most of my flights are overseas and I always hope everybody is in their best behavior when I get on the plane. I flew to HKG from SFO the day after election and I really did pray and hope that nobody on the plane was cheering or upset about the result. Lucky, it was a good flight…nothing happen. Thats the way it should be.

  16. Please just write flights reports….. you are not very good in here, did you heard both of the people involved ? Dont think so.

  17. Sooooooo……..Melissa……… How ya doin? Everything good? hahahahaha Just because I feel like this would piss you off: I’m gay and I have nice things and a great job and I’m asian-American and omg I have black friends and white friends and latino friends and all sorts of colors of friends and travel and I win. ^_^ fuck i’m laughing

  18. A few weeks ago on a flight ATL to BOS there was quite a large man wearing a trump hat, a trump shirt and a trump pin in my row. He was watching the inflight tv on CNN (talking about Jill Stein’s recount) and speaking quite loudly to the tv. How horrible Hillary was, how Jill Stein is stealing everyone’s money. How Hillary is going to jail.

    He turned to me and tried to engage me in conversation about Trump. I responded with ‘i dont support Trump, let’s talk about football instead’ so instead we had a nice chat about our mutual dislike for Tom Brady.

    Crisis averted. We all need to calm down.

  19. It’s amusing, these posts, because some of the comments they attract are like comments one would read on Yahoo.*

    *That’s not a good thing.

  20. So …as this behavior was described I think the person should have been removed for disrupting the flight. I also recall that Trump’s team routinely removed folks from his campaign events when they “expressed their opinions” They also denied press credentials to journalists whose opinions they didn’t like. Both situations are private person/private entity and freedom of speech doesn’t apply–Tiffany is right.

  21. >Why is she flying commercial though? It seems that all the Trump kids fly commercial.

    She can do whatever she damn well pleases and she certainly does not answer to you SJW bullies. I did not vote for Trump, but I’m starting to think this is what America needed with all the petulant mini-fascists who can’t behave decently towards others.

  22. This article shows such a lack of understanding of the nuances of American constitutional law. In my opinion, Ben, you should do better research before writing an article like this!

  23. oh, the “tolerant left” strikes again.
    what a bunch of hypocrites.
    we won, you lost. get over it, losers.

  24. So now we have a free speech case before us. Yesterday we hammered out discrimination with the two fellas from New York. Last week we had the big girl getting drug off the plane by the cops.

    All of these incidents boil down to one party acting out and getting put in check by the authority figure.

    I have been entertained by the social justice types who have made every excuess in the book for their behavior. However, poor behavior is just poor behavior and in the confined space of a flying tube going up to 35,000 feet is unacceptable for safety reasons.

  25. A+ post, Lucky.

    The guy wasn’t removed from the plane for expressing his opinion or for “offending” someone. He was removed for being a disruptive a**hole. Honestly, what he was shouting is pretty irrelevant; getting up in a crowded airplane and shouting at another passenger is grounds for removal. How many people want to fly in a cabin for several hours with a dude that’s shouting like he’s at a rally? He could’ve been shouting that he likes tea more than coffee and I”d still want him kicked off.

    And that’s what most airlines’ contract of carriage is designed to prevent: people being loud, disruptive, and annoying. Some of us just want to sleep or get work done on our flight, not try to block out some entitled ass.

  26. I see a few commenters expressing classic lib hypocrisy, criticizing the Trumps for flying commercial. Maybe they feel it’s safer. Maybe the schedule worked perfectly for them. Maybe they don’t feel like polluting more than necessary. Maybe private jets are overrated. Who knows and who cares? Seriously libs, get a life.

    As for the idiot who harassed her, according to his husband the idiot was “chasing them down” (them being Ivanka and Jared). This is an incredibly stupid thing to do a) on an airplane and b) to people who are protected by the Secret Service. This goes beyond any sort of free speech, I think the idiot is mentally ill. Why is he raging and why is he unable to control his rage? With his own kid in his arms, to boot! This is so totally crazy. I hope he’s arrested, put on a no fly list, and disbarred.

  27. Just want to add that I heard this morning that the people on the flight were happy that the idiot was ejected. I don’t think there are many people who want to fly with crazies aboard.

  28. Message to clown who was ejected: Sorry for your confusion. It’s Ivanka’s FATHER who is the moron, not her.

  29. Family and friends aside. I don’t like liberals. I don’t like conservatives either.
    To the few of you on here who understand the issue and are posting rational thoughts (Tiffany, Lucky, Alex, Imperator)-you are a dying breed.. and probably not welcome on the internet. I’d like to think we would have had people who were in touch with reality in our government branches if there were more of you.
    Instead, let’s just go start screaming at everyone. Seems to work for everyone else.

  30. I’d just like to see trip reports, which is why I come to this site in the first place. and I also miss the credit card reviews as well.

  31. Just about nothing posted or commented on regarding the Constitution and free speech has been correct.

    Please, please try not to make people more stupid. It’s not a good thing.

  32. Same thing goes on a Ship. Disruptive passengers can be arrested by the Captain, and handed over to the police at the next port. What the police do with the the passenger is entirely up to them, but the Ship leaves with them no longer on board.

  33. I really gave her an ear full when I caught her hitching last week too! LOL Jetblue? Please! I thought they were cracking down on fake news!

  34. I’ve seen a number of real-life politicians on my travels, and somehow I have always managed to avoid criticizing their politics when I did, even when I didn’t like them.

    It’s called – maturity. Doesn’t matter whether it is on a plane or on the street. Grow up, people.

  35. @OhmyGodtheInternetIsWinning — well, don’t leave us in suspense. If Tiffany’s statements about the First Amendment and Freedom of Speech aren’t correct (though I think they are), then please provide us with the correct information.

  36. This guy deserved to be kicked off the plane, but it’s not hard to understand how he felt. Ivanka Trump’s father is a piece of shit, a disgusting race-baiting narcissist with a severe personality disorder who has now been entrusted with our nuclear arsenal. Fuck you if you voted for him. I’m not going to pretend it’s normal or that he deserves any respect whatsoever.

  37. @ lucky – I know I’m not alone in saying that I don’t come to your site for gossipy social media-driven-frenzied news, Internet lawyers galore, and political rants (admittedly, I wouldn’t say YOU are ranting, but these types of posts certainly invite ranters); I come here for your trip reports and credit card reviews. The Garuda tip – great. The Hilton category changes – also helpful. But this post (and the boycott Delta post, and the two “professional idiot” posts, and the fat chick getting drug off a plane, and the Hillary Bitches post, etc…..) are just garbage. I’d really appreciate you sticking to what makes your blog so successful…

    PS – I totally understand that this is your blog and you can do with it as you please. But as a businessman, you surely understand that these types of posts are going to drive eyeballs/clicks/referral links AWAY from you, long term.

  38. While I completely agree that nobody deserves to be harassed on the plane, on the street, or anywhere else, it is symptomatic of the level of discourse allowed and encouraged by her father and his organization. To a certain extent, this is a case of reaping what you sow.

  39. Lucky, agree with @Josh on this one. Garbage stories bring out garbage commentary. Too much of that stuff and your blog will start to stink.

  40. So funny that people who voted for Hillary thought she had the whole election locked up. Now what, have you all lost hope? Are you going to go cry to Mommy and Daddy? If yiu can’t accept trump as YOUR president then get the hell out of MY country. I didn’t vote for Trump. But I’m sick and tired of the passing and moanjng from Hillary people. She lost. Get over it. Move on. Or better yet, get a one way ticket out of MY country.

  41. Brian,Brian,Brian. Chill dude! People are just upset that a moron was elected leader of the free world. As time goes on and we understand more of what he’s about everyone will settle down. For example, today he came out for more nuclear weapons, even though leaders from both parties have been trying for years to decrease the number of weapons. See? Everything will be fine!

  42. People don’t seem to understand the First Amendment. You can’t be sanctioned by the government for the content of your words unless it is a call to action. (To kill someone, etc.) That doesn’t mean a private entity cannot sanction you. (Throwing you out of a private business or an airplane) That said, nobody has the right to accost or harass anyone regardless of who the are or their person beliefs for one. And Ivanka has a right as anyone does to fly commercial or private. And to bother her in front of her children? It takes a special douchnozzle to think that is even remotely acceptable. I’m glad the tossed this clown off the plane. Good for JetBlue.

  43. Apparently all “libs” are exactly the same–a sentiment supported by many pro-Rump supporters here.

    It seems equal to think of all {reps, cons, pro-Rump, ill-informed idiots} as sharing the exact thoughts and psychotic tendencies of Melissa, above, in all of that entity’s writings.

  44. I can’t believe people are for suppressing free speech, that blows my mind. Even on an airplane you have free speech. Saying that you have no free speech in regards to business is incredibly dangerous. JetBlue can kick off anyone they want, but he is allowed to speak his mind regardless.
    You can’t yell fire on a plane because that’s a call to action, not just speech. There is a huge difference.

  45. Truly in poor taste and she is not her father. But just because you’re running for president does not give one license to question where a woman is “bleeding” or to insult anyone. Just another sign of polarization that will (has?) ripped this country a part. Just not appropriate…period.

  46. Someone above said the following: “Trump’s father is a piece of shit, a disgusting race-baiting narcissist with a severe personality disorder who has now been entrusted with our nuclear arsenal. Fuck you if you voted for him. I’m not going to pretend it’s normal or that he deserves any respect whatsoever.”

    Typical uncivilized foaming at the mouth left wing rant.

    Judging by the following comments many appear to agree with him. “Daddy Dearest”, “Jet blue is racist”, “shrill for Hitler”, “moron was elected leader of the free world”, But “just because you’re running for president does not give one license ….insult anyone” (even if they insult you first), and “it is symptomatic of the level of discourse allowed and encouraged by her father and his organization.”

    I am sorry, but you guys are intolerant nuts. Calm down. Try not to hyperventilate. Go to your safe space. In the meantime, I think I will take my rabies shots, cross myself a couple of times, and hope that is enough.

  47. @RR:
    I wasn’t specifically referring to Tiffany, and that’s why I said “just about nothing.”
    Take for example Aimrika:Freedom of speech or 1st amendment in the US constitution is applicable only to the federal government in that it cannot restrict speech.
    This is not true. For example it applies to all state public universities.

    A full discussion would better be had on a law blog. I have a problem with people thinking they know more than they do and then posting it as fact. It makes people stupider (and yes, “stupider” is acceptable grammar).
    I also have a problem with posting snippets of the Constitution and then an assertion of what they mean without reference to case law. It’s sort of like the Tea Party relying on 3 words from the Declaration of Independence.

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