"Twitter Bitch" is not a protected class.
The seemingly endless stream of misinterpretations of what free speech actually affords you as a citizen in the United States just keeps on flowing.
It wasn’t until I asked him if he’d heard of free speech that the tone changed.
I presume this happened in Europe and while laws are different there I still get very tired of a "free speech" claim as carte blanche to ridiculue, defame and denounce entities by which you otherwise expect to be serviced. To be clear, I think the airline took a horrible approach to the problem... herein I'm only addressing the the claim that free speech somehow frees one from consequences.
Flying (at least in the United States) is not a right. These are private companies providing private carriage services. It is true that we have a lot of protections to make sure that people aren't unfairly denied service and I think they are a very good thing. Specifically, a business can't deny you service because you are white or black, from the United Kingdom, or athiest or Catholic or Muslim.
... full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.
Furthermore, we've identified a set of protected classes against which businesses are disallowed to discriminate. All good.
Outside of this, a private business has the right to deny service based on pretty much anything else. For example, if you curse... Cursing isn't a protected class.
Businesses (at least the good ones) want to provide value to customers and take money off the table for doing so. The really good ones want to provide more value to customers than they get in monetary recompense as it builds loyalty and market advantages (and perhaps a better world to live in).
If I know I can't service a customer and they are going to be unhappy, I would prefer to not take their money off the table and simply leave it at that. I have no desire to provide a service and take money from a customer that will not realize the value of the service. I have limited supply and I'd like to "lose" that customer and replace them with one to which I stand to provide more value.
So, how do you determine if a customer finds you services or product to be of poor value? The easiest way is to hear them say it... perhaps on Twitter. In this great country you have the right (within some reasonable limits) to say whatever you like, but let's all stop pretending that your actions don't have consequences. If you're on private property or being serviced by a private entity, that entity has a lot of rights as well; one of which is (within some reasonable limits) telling you to fuck off. After all, being a "Twitter Bitch" isn't a protected class.
All that said, this guy already had a ticket. That ticket comes with a contract. One's right to free speech isn't really relevant here. The question is who stands to be in breach of contract at the end of this interlude. If the contract says you can't complain on Twitter, then not letting you board the plane seems perfectly reasonable. On the other hand, (which I'm sure is the case) the airline should get its act together. Regardless, it should be well within the rights of the airline refuse future service.
I have run several successful businesses and I've elected to not do business with certain people on numerous occasions. As a business owner/operator you should strive to find the right customer and love them until it hurts by putting more on the table than you take off. That said, never confuse a company choosing to love you as an obligation to love you.