10-Year-Old Forced To Remove Snake T-Shirt To Avoid Causing Anxiety For Passengers

10-Year-Old Forced To Remove Snake T-Shirt To Avoid Causing Anxiety For Passengers

In all of my years of traveling, and by that, I mean ten solid years, I have seen people who haven’t been allowed to board an airplane for several reasons. Sometimes it’s a clear case of mistaken identity, i.e., a person bearing the same name with someone who isn’t eligible for a U.S Visa. Other times it’s due to health issues or false travel documents. However, this is the first time the reason behind preventing a person from boarding is linked to a print on a t-shirt. [1]

A young boy was not allowed to board because he was wearing a T-shirt that had a realistic snake print. The incident took place in South Africa, where Stevie and his parents, Steve and Marga, were vacationing. Stevie, a New Zealand native, was visiting his grandparents in South Africa, where his mother is originally from. They were stopped after they went to board a flight at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. 

There, Marga was told that Stevie would have to take off his T-shirt, which was adorned with a realistic print of a green snake since it might make other passengers uncomfortable. Stevie’s mother was also told that snake toys as well aren’t allowed on board. Left with no other option, they had to comply.

To resolve the issue quickly and prevent further drama, Stevie’s mother asked him to turn his shirt inside out. As soon as he did this, he was allowed to join the others who had already boarded.

The airport has since released a statement confirming the incident while adding that they reserve the right to ask a passenger to take off any object that could potentially harm other passengers.

Security officers have the right to determine if an object has the potential to harm fellow passengers and crew members by causing certain objects or prints to be anxious,” the airport said in a statement. [2]

Unsurprisingly, the post has generated a lot of reactions across all social media platforms, with many people suggesting that the airline had gone too far.

Thankfully, the family took the event in its stride with the young Stevie proposing a toast after they returned to New Zealand.

Have You Heard of Ophidiophobia?

In all fairness, the realistic print on the boy’s shirt had the potential to harm other passengers. Just like agoraphobia, acrophobia, dentophobia, claustrophobia, arachnophobia, aichmophobia, coulrophobia, aerophobia, and mysophobia, ophidiophobia is a thing. It is the fear of snakes.

Nobody likes snakes. They could be harmful, and their venom could kill. Studies have found that our brains have been conditioned to be afraid of snake-like forms. This has always been and will always be.

However, if you find that you lose control or are unable to function at the mention or the sight of a snake, then you may be dealing with ophidiophobia. People who have ophidiophobia may experience lightheadedness, sweating, nausea, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, shaking, and in some instances, an increased heart rate at the mention or the sight of snakes.

Ophidiophobia may occur because of a traumatic experience you had with a snake while growing up. It could also be triggered by scary portrayals of snakes in the media or through stories. While there is no particular treatment for this phobia, systematic desensitization, a form of therapy where you’re exposed to the thing you fear in a non-threatening and safe environment, may make a lot of difference. [3]

Whether or not there was a passenger who would experience an intense reaction to a picture of a snake, it’s a good thing Stevie and his family were good sports about the incident.


  1. 10-year-old forced to remove anxiety-causing shirt at airport: ‘Security officers have the right.’ Yahoo. Alex Lasker. December 27, 2019.
  2. Why an Airline Might Deny Boarding to U.S. Visa Holder.Nolo. Tiffney Johnson. Accessed February 28, 2020.
  3. What You Need to Know About Ophidiophobia: A Fear of Snakes.Health Line. Melanie Burke. Accessed February 28, 2020.
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