American Airlines has apologized after a passenger claimed she was asked to leave her flight over a shirt that some crew members found "offensive."
The incident occurred when Swati Runi Goyal was flying from Florida to Las Vegas in late October — weeks before the airline issued a full apology, according to BuzzFeed News.
After boarding the flight, the 49-year-old, who was traveling with her husband, was called up to the front of the plane. Goyal who was wearing a T-shirt that read "Hail Satan," gathered her things and began speaking with the crew members.
The Key West resident told BuzzFeed News she originally thought she was being upgraded to first class, but it turns out it was her shirt that had caught the staff's attention.
"[The crew member] said, ‘Our crew has found your shirt to be offensive,'" Goyal recalled. "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 said she originally dismissed this request, but the crew continued to press her, delaying the flight and calling for a customer service agent to come on board and demand she remove the shirt. The 49-year-old said she was given an ultimatum: Change shirts or leave the flight entirely. Goyal was confused by the outrage.
"It’s an ironic shirt," she told BuzzFeed News. "People usually laugh at it, or they give me a thumbs up because they understand the meaning behind it."
Goyal is a member of the Satanic Temple, a religious organization that, despite its name, does not believe in or worship Satan. Instead, the group strives "to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people," according to a description on its website.
American Airlines' passenger safety policy states that "bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed," however the company does not provide specific examples. Goyal believed that her "Hail Satan" shirt, which also features an upside-down cross and the words "Est. 666," didn't fit that description.
"I’m just an ordinary-looking person," she told BuzzFeed News. "I’m not goth. I don’t have piercings. I wasn’t wearing a shirt that had a goat being beheaded on it."
Despite her frustration, Goyal was not removed from the flight, eventually borrowing a shirt from her husband. She later contacted American Airlines to complain but told BuzzFeed News she was not given an apology.
"Our flight attendants have a responsibility to all passengers in our care, and we must sometimes make difficult decisions associated with the application of our policies," one of the company's emails to Goyal read.
The airline did express regret last Friday after Goyal tweeted about the incident and her story began gaining attention online.
"Discrimination has no place at American Airlines," the company replied to her tweet, which was posted to a now-private account.
A spokesperson for American Airlines also voiced the company's remorse in a statement, telling BuzzFeed News that it is currently reaching out to Goyal in order to "understand what occurred."