There’s a new commercial out for American Airlines for their lie-flat seats in First and Business class.
And the commercial depicts the passenger violating their Contract of Carriage.
Of course you all know which portion of the Contract of Carriage I’m referring to. Here’s a screen shot.
Yet, the American Airlines Contract of Carriage specifically states:
American may refuse to transport you, or may remove you from your flight at any point, for one or several reasons, including but not limited to the following:
6. Your conduct is disorderly, abusive or violent, or you
g. are barefoot . . .
First, don’t you love that they equate being barefoot with being disorderly, abusive, or violent? Because that’s exactly what the woman in the commerical is, right?
Now, if you challenge American Airlines on the commercial, the first thing that will happen (because this happens with any company you challenge a shoe “rule” with) if you try to contact the company is that you will get to talk to a “customer service representative”. This, of course, is code for “a low-paid employee at a phone bank working from a script and who has absolutely no power to change anything or any idea or authority to handle something different”.
And if you do get to somebody higher up in the food chain, you can be guaranteed they know nothing about the rule. They’ll make up some excuse about annoying other passengers (even though it doesn’t) or liability (even though they don’t seem to worry about liability from women catching heels on the entryway or the row of raised lights in the aisle). But they really don’t have a clue.
After all, the barefoot rule on airlines comes from an old Civil Aeronautics Board rule from before airline regulation. Back then, the CAB specified the contents of the Contract of Carriage. After deregulation each airline was allowed to specify their own Contract of Carriage, but most never bothered to change (or even bothered to think about changing) this rule. There are a few (very few) who removed that clause, or then you have an airline like Southwest Airlines, whose Contract of Carriage specifies that they may remove:
Persons who are barefoot and older than five years of age, unless required due to a disability.
That’s right. They care about liability because being barefoot on their planes is so unsafe. But it’s OK for your 4-year-old to walk barefoot under such unsafe conditions. Of course, in reality, it’s not unsafe at all. Heck, they don’t even have glass (another safety shibboleth) on the plane—it’s all plastic cups and trays.
The really funny thing is, the only possible reason to have a restriction on bare feet is exactly the one depicted in their commercial.
Feet restricted in shoes have this way of acquiring bacteria and fungi. Smelly bacteria and fungi that really could annoy other passengers. So that woman in the commercial removing her shoes has a good chance of wafting a odor about the cabin.
Of course, that would not be the case for somebody arriving barefoot (or sandaled, for that matter). But the rule doesn’t even think about or consider that. It’s just out there, without rhyme or reason. The rule really should be about odors, not bare feet (and, in fact, that is covered by American Airlines rule 6e: “Have an offensive odor not caused by a disability or illness”).
Getting the airline to change the rule to something that makes sense is impossible. They’ve all bought into the rule, and can only think of ways to justify it, not remove it.
So, in the meantime, if you want to fly barefoot, it’ll be a crap shoot. It’ll all depend on whether any particular airline employee happens to see your bare feet, and happens to care about them.
I’ve flown barefoot many times without challenge. But I’ve also had trips where it seems they’re out to get me. As I said, it just depends on the particular employee (this happens in stores, too).
All you can do it try it, but be ready to be challenged.
Here’s the full commercial.