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Should Allegiant Air passengers have a right to not receive union literature?

Updated at 1:28 p.m. Feb. 12

Updated to include a statement by Allegiant Air on the issue of new routes and possible cancellation of routes:

Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler emailed this comment regarding the issue that the TWU cited for the flyers handed out:

Many of the routes in our system have never been flown before - we have no historical data to look to and forecast demand and costs based on available data.  Allegiant is making every effort to bring new service to underserved communities at affordable prices and in this case, new visitors to the Hawaiian islands, visitors who have never had access to nonstop service to Hawaii before. We do not go into a market unless we believe we will be successful there, but some routes do not work out the way we anticipate.  The vast majority of our new routes are successful.

Is there a guaranteed right of free speech aboard a commercial airliner?

That question was raised last weekend during the first Allegiant Air flight from Spokane's airport to Hawaii.

Last weekend, the TWU sent a representative aboard the first flight, and once on board, the union rep handed out leaflets to passengers

In December Allegiant's flight attendants voted to be represented by a local of the Transport Workers Union. This first-flight event occurred as Allegiant and the union are hammering out their first-ever contract for flight attendants.

 The flyer handed out is what you see here.

The issue isn't union representation. A press release, posted at this link, includes information about the company’s record of abrupt cancellation of service to “underperforming” markets. The leaflet leaves the impression Allegiant dumps its service to some markets without a lot of advance notice. We're not sure how accurate that is.

There were no incidents on the flight, according to reports. A sheriff's deputy, however, interviewed the union worker in Honolulu when the flight arrived. After 10 minutes, the union worker left, having established no disruptions occurred during the flight.

So here's the nub:  If you're in a restaurant with your best friend, is it OK if union workers drop by your table and ask you to sign a petiion against the owner of the business? Or pass out material suggesting the owner is mistreating employees?

Restaurants are public or semi-public locations. An airplane may not be the same kind of workplace.

Or, is free speech basically free speech, provided it doesn't inflame or injure anyone?

Which way should the law tilt?

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Tom Sowa
Tom Sowa covers technology, retail and economic development and writes the Office Hours blog.