Delta Passengers Reportedly Kicked Off Flight For ‘Private Conversation About Supporting Trump’

Delta Air Lines reportedly removed passengers from a flight departing Washington National airport on Saturday, after riots at the Capitol last week, “because they was having a private conversation about supporting President Trump.” We have video of the passengers leaving, and from in the terminal after their removal, but not of the actual comments that prompted Delta to ask them to leave.

The contents of private conversations can be deemed a threat. Just ask anyone making private jokes about bombs at a security checkpoint, or who is Muslim or a professor carrying weapons of math instruction.

My serious take here is that in the wake of last Wednesdays events on Capitol Hill, for flights departing Washington National airport, there was a heightened sense of fear and concern among airline crew and passengers who weren’t involved in the protests or riots. Small comments could be an early signal of future trouble. So just like innocuous comments can be taken out of context as a terrorist threat in the post-9/11 world, so too can even innocuous comments linked to last Wednesday’s events.

While I think we need to guard against overreaction – there’s hardly a need for new ‘domestic terrorism laws’ against actions that are already illegal – it’s also completely understandable that humans would be on hair trigger alert. If you’re boarding a plane after participating in events that disrupted the democratic order in this country, however briefly, just don’t talk about it until you’re safely back at home.

Now takes like this one on twitter are bad:

First “I won’t fly them now, but I didn’t fly them anyway” is almost the definition of meaningless, and no what Delta did it isn’t ‘unconstitutional’. This tweet might be a candidate for @badlegaltakes.

However at some point, and I’m not arguing we’re there, do all of the massive subsidies for what’s already one of the most highly regulated industries, make the major airlines sufficiently a quasi-government entity such that first amendment protections begin to apply? The federal government now has an ownership stake in even Republic, Allegiant, SkyWest and every large carrier in the country and with the second round of so-called payroll support grants presumably will be taking additional stakes.

And while Delta does own a stake in China Eastern Airlines, I don’t think that makes them a Communist Marxist..China Company” as claimed on Parler. In fact Delta’s CEO was supportive of Trump before the 2016 election and was encouraged after his election – but that was self-serving, he wanted Trump’s protectionism to work to his airline’s benefit against carriers from the Mideast.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. So you’re takeaway is, it’s bad for passengers to choose their own airline based on their freedom of speech not being suppressed, but it’s NOT bad for an airline to remove a passenger simply for having a private conversation about supporting a candidate for the Presidency. I assume you would feel the same for someone who expressed their support about Biden. If not, look in the mirror – you’re the real problem America has.

  2. @Ritz did you read the post? I don’t think that is a reasonable characterization of what i wrote.

  3. Freedom of speech as enshrined by the US Constitution pertains to prohibition on government not curtail speech.

    Last time I checked, Delta is a private company and if the pilot or the flight crew believed that this “private” conversation would escalate (regardless of political leanings), they are within their right to kickoff such passengers, under the current laws (since 9/11).

  4. @Kalboz @Gary…..absolutely right, private business has the right to do so. As long as they don’t violate federal discrimination laws such as gender, religion, etc. Also, pilot has the right to remove if he/she believes the pax can or is escalating a potential threat.

    Because we don’t know what was said or how it was said that prompted this removal, everything is speculation.

  5. Deplaning people for having a difference in political thought and civil exchange seems like a slippery slope unless such airline action were to be confined to circumstances where the expressed thoughts are clearly indicative of being a wanted criminal, prepared to engaged in illegal disorderly conduct and/or a physical threat.

  6. Irresponsible reporting…you know that they didn’t get removed from the flight for just taking about Trump.

  7. Their Lord Trump’s youngest priest in the US Senate is Republican US Senator Josh Hawley, a graduate of one of the best law schools in the country and a former law clerk to Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts. Ted Cruz’s buddy Hawley stated that a book publisher canceling his contracted book deal is a violation of his First Amendment rights. Apparently, the “well-educated”, “impressive” Hawley is in the good company of some Delta Air Line critics in not understanding that the First Amendment restricts the government. The First Amendment does not restrict private sector corporations, acting in a private capacity and not as an agent of the state, from having restrictions on speech/expression of its employees, suppliers/contractors and customers while on the property of an individual or independent corporation.

  8. Wow you guys really only have one side of the story and are running with it.

    Unsurprising.

  9. Well I suppose that’s what it feels like when they are singled out. #flyingwhileMAGA can join #flyingwhileblack and #flyingwhilemuslim.

  10. Another left-wing journalist carrying the water for anti-Trumpers and the Dems. There are all over the place. Fall in line and write articles like these.

  11. “About Gary Leff
    Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel – a topic he has covered since 2002.”

    Add “Civil rights expert” and “Constitutuional Scholar” to the About Gary…

    Stick to Airline Miles pal.. It’s a real interesting topic.

  12. I love when unpleasant people declare that they’ll boycott a service/company I use. Nothing would please me more!

  13. I’m no lawyer but isn’t it unconstitutional for even private companies to discriminate based on a customer’s political affiliation? If one simply has a respectful private conversation mentioning that one supported Trump and yet were kicked off a flight, I would certainly pursue legal action. Chanting and being disruptive of a flight is one thing; simply stating that one supported a political candidate (however divisive) is entirely different. Yes, people should be more sensitive given the recent events, but people still have rights that need to be protected. Of course, the devil is in the details.

  14. @Alex, political affiliation (regardless of which) is not a protected class under the law. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and later (by the USSC) sexual orientation and gender identity.

  15. It would be nice if people would make a minimal attempt to understand what freedom of speech actually means. In no way does it apply to this situation. If you don’t understand the fundamentals of the constitution perhaps you should keep your opinions to yourself. My god this is fourth grade civics stuff.

    As for this article I sincerely doubt the only offense was a private conversation. Had it been private nobody would know of it. Had it been Trumpists mouthing off as we have known them to do on airlines recently that would be a far different story.

  16. Let’s hear Delta’s side of this story. I bet it is very different from that of the passengers.

  17. Several pertinent issues

    1. Freedom of speech is not quite accurate just as is the idea that anyone can be President.

    2. Freedom of speech is mainly that publishing an opinion won’t get you arrested.

    3. Sometimes, there is a liberal bent, such as Wikipedia or Twitter but usually it is not affecting too many people. Arbitrary wikipedia bans, however, are common because there’s little oversight or quality control.

    4. In the 1950’s, the CAB did make route awards because of political party donations. I think that American was Democrat and Continental was Republican.

    5. If you read the plain language of Trump’s last 2 tweets, there was no overt threat of violence but he was permanently banned anyway. So airlines can do the same thing. They can view you as generally bad then make up a reason. Usually not but a FA can make a biased or false complaint.

  18. I guess there’s really no such thing as free speech. Would people be kicked off the plane for a conversation about Biden?

  19. @Alex: nope. The US Bill of Rights protect private citizens from federal government action. They do not address actions by private parties at all. The 14th Amendment extends protections to limit actions by state governments (and local ones by extension, since local governments are subdivisions of states).

    There are a variety of federal statutes (NOT the Constitution) that bar private parties from discriminating against specific “protected classes”. Holding, or supporting orally, certain political viewpoints is not a protected class under any of those statutes.

    So in this case the devil is not in the details at all.

  20. @Alex: It is literally impossible for Delta or any other private company to do something *unconstitutional.* The Constitution grants powers and imposes limitations on what *government* can do. Only a government (or an entity controlled by a government) can do something unconstitutional.

    It’s possible for Delta or another private company to do something illegal (constituting a violation of statute law) or to commit a tort or a breach of contract by suppressing speech or denying service based on speech, though I seriously doubt it did so in this case.

  21. Elections have consequences. This does seem like poor optics for Delta but I’m sure there is more to the story (I’d hope).

  22. Interesting to ‘hear’ the trump trumpets crying over their ‘rights’ to communicate THEIR opinions to ALL Others in am enclosed environment….
    I have the OPPOSITE experience.. on a international flight, I hooked into airlines WiFi system, and was SPAMMED without my consent nor knowledge, BY ULTRA RUGHT INFLUENCERS during the flight..after landing, I found trumper trash planted in my phone. I contacted the airline and filed a complaint…
    This trumper trash violated ‘MY RIGHT’ to My Right to travel in peace…without being spammed by infecting my phone with ‘political’ sites which attempted to not only ‘influence’ but also SELL CRxP !
    If anyone has ‘doubts’ I posses the original complaint…

  23. I did not support Biden or Democrats and have no plans to do so, and I am happy to say so publicly as the Constitution allows. Does this mean I will be banned from flying commercial airlines?

  24. @Aafreq
    Nice try to deflect… Pathetic a bit, but whatever makes you happy or a victim!
    Unfortunately hypocrisy doesn’t violate the constitution or a law, but it definitely has become a common norm in this USSA…

  25. I bet they were not using their quiet , I’m inside an airplane, voices during their private pro Trump conversation.

    The volume of their voices + the content of the speech raised sufficient concern among cabin staff to take them off the flight. The sense of entitelment amongst Trump supporters is really breathatking. Rules following, not so much.

  26. Gary please eat another doughnut and stick to writing about miles and points. You’re stepping outside your expertise.

  27. Safe to say the flight crew act correctly to prevent a potential inflight disturbance.
    That’s really the crux of it. The proof is what was already escalating as they deplaned.
    When you say they were “just supporting the president” you are also missing the point.
    They were “supporting domestic terrorism”……

  28. in other words, if they are capable of storming the Capitol they are capable of causing a serious inflight disturbance. If they are not smart enough to maintain a low profile about what they had just been involved in they SHOULD be removed.
    I want flight crew that puts safety of flight as the number one priority in all circumstances. Good job Delta Airlines.

  29. What is the matter with some of the people in this post touting “Freedom of Speech”. and if I were them I would sue Delta. The right to free speech comes with responsible speech and accountability for what is said. IT DOES NOT GIVE ANYBODY THE RIGHT TO JUST SAY ANYTHING THEY WANT TO!! If these people truly feel the people taken off this flight that their rights have been violated, then they too should be banned from ever flying on any airline ever again with that attitude! I know I don’t want those mislead, irresponsible individuals on my flight. I would consider them outright dangerous to me and my fellow passengers. My Democracy was threatened, my Capitol was attacked by a bunch of low life slugs, and those individuals taking place in that Coup attempt to overthrow my government have a right to brag about it?? If you truly believe that in the name of free speech, go find another autocratic government to reside in. You are not wanted or should be tolerated in this country. Thank God we still have a company willing to do the right thing! Congratulations Delta!!

  30. Wasn’t it the their dear leader who called for passengers that ‘looked’ like Antifa on planes to be stopped? Hmmm…I love how they don’t like spray paint on gov’t buildings, but will destroy the capital, call for law and order, until they want to not be lawful or orderly, say they support the men in blue, but just killed one. The irony is lost on the retrumplican clowns. Global disgrace. The same that are banging on about freedom of speech here would be clapping in you replaced the the conversation on the plane with a conversation supporting Antifa. So stop yapping on about freedom of speech because you lot only care when you want it to apply to you.

  31. I don’t know about you guys, but I love corporations deciding on what is good and bad. “Court of law” is so antiquated anyways

  32. jeff,

    When will you allow every Tom, Dick, and Harry to post “Trump Lies and Truly Loses” signs all over the walls, windows, and doors of your home and on your vehicle windows, doors and bumpers?

    The court of law protects your property from being used to host content you don’t support, just like the court of law protects Delta’s property from being used to host content that Delta doesn’t support. Nothing antiquated about it.

  33. Its clear from even minimal research into this that it was NOT a private conversation. Additional videos of the woman who was kicked off confirms this when she talks about the whole back of the plane being involved. The idea that Delta would just kick people off for having a private conversation was absurd on its face and these claims should have been researched more before being published.

  34. A lot of talk here about Delta being a private company and they reserve the right to kick anyone anytime but…..lets not forget that between now and 2013 taxpayers bailed out Delta for 11 billion dollars worth

  35. Delta has a policy that, whenever possible, a “security team” is convened. This includes the captain, onboard leader, flight controller and a “red coat” supervisor. While the captain does have final authority to remove any passenger, the security team does have input. So, the removal of these passengers was not a unilateral move on the flight crew’s say so.

  36. What happened to cuckwing Trumpers yelling “A BUISNESS SHOULD HAVE A RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE TO WHOEVER THEY WANT”?
    Oh, right, that only applies when they refuse people you hate, like black people, or queer people. But when it’s against Trump’s cocksleeves then it’s an outrage.

  37. hey Kalbooz, Delta ceases to be a private entity when it is subsidized by TAX PAYER DOLLARS and there is nothing in the U.S.A. Constitution that states someone or some entity can deny you your Constitutional rights just because of they own something!!!
    Have you ever read the Constitution fully or just chiming in what ever the NWO Commies in this Country tell you to say!

    TRUMP WON!
    BIDEN IS NOT MY PRESIDENT NOR DO I RECOGNIZE THE INCOMING CONGRESS AS LEGAL!

  38. THE INCOMING DEMOCRAP BADMINISTRATION IS ILLEGAL!!

    SHOULD HAVE DRAGGED ALL THE DEM AND RINOS OUTTA THE CAPITOL AND HUNG THEM ON THE MALL LAWN! F”IN TRAITIORS AND COMMUNIST CONSPIRATORS!

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