Not Cool: American Airlines Forces Woman To Cover Up

Filed Under: American

There’s a story going viral about a doctor from Houston who was returning home with her eight year old son via Miami after a vacation in Jamaica. She boarded her American Airlines flight in Kingston, and while walking to her seat she was stopped by a flight attendant and told she had to go to the front of the plane.

She was then directed onto the jet bridge, where she was told that her attire wasn’t acceptable, and that she’d have to cover up if she wanted to fly.

https://twitter.com/tisharowemd/status/1145326754334220289

Since she didn’t have any other clothing on her, she asked for a blanket, and wrapped up in that as she walked down the aisle. As she returned to her seat she was allegedly told by another flight attendant not to make a scene (though by all accounts she was incredibly calm throughout all of this, as she wanted to avoid humiliation for her son).

For what it’s worth, here’s a picture of her outfit:

Regarding the incident, Dr. Rowe had the following to say:

“I turned, and I looked at my backside, and I kind of gave myself that, you know, girl check. Growing up, I lived in a very conservative household. Like, if my dad thought my shorts were too short, I was not leaving the house. So that’s just something that I’ve gotten into the habit of doing.

I have a very curvaceous body, and I put my body in bold colors, so you’re going to see it. But it’s not vulgar. It’s not inappropriate. It’s not bad, you know? If you put someone who’s a size 2 in the exact same outfit next to me, no one would be bothered.”

She’s exactly right here, and I have no doubt that there’s a high level of body shaming and/or racism going on here. Her outfit covers everything that needs to be covered, and if this were someone with a different body type and/or someone white I’m sure no one would have batted an eyelid.

This is probably a good time to also talk about American’s dress code. The only thing that the contract of carriage says regarding this is the following:

Dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.

I see significantly more offensive outfits than this every time I go to the airport, and I imagine those passengers don’t face any sort of issues.

American Airlines issued the following statement regarding the incident:

We were concerned about Dr. Rowe’s comments, and reached out to her and our team at the Kingston airport to gather more information about what occurred. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to reach Dr. Rowe or leave a message at the number provided. We want to personally apologize to Dr. Rowe and her son for their experience, and have fully refunded their travel. We are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds and are committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us.

I’m not sure what exactly American is trying to say with the statement about being “proud to serve customers of all backgrounds,” as that seems unrelated to the issue. American Airlines employees just need to be retrained on the airline’s dress code, or lack thereof, and need to apply it consistently across body types.

I’m sure some will be around in the comments to say “I would never dress that way on a plane.” I get we all take different approaches towards how we should dress on planes. Many people think it’s inappropriate that I wear sweats on their plane, and it’s fine to feel that way.

But the reality is that flying is mass transportation nowadays, and there are very few rules to what you can and can’t wear. If everything is covered and your clothes don’t have vulgar messaging, it’s not up to anyone else to decide you shouldn’t fly based on that.

Comments
  1. Ben, you have not had the pleasure of working in corporate america. The dress code for men is slacks (no shorts) and dress shirts, polo shirts if you’re lucky.

    Women get to wear (above the knee) skirts and sleeveless tops.

  2. You don’t know the other side of the story. She could have wearing it to shows have of her cleavage to public.

    Sometimes, people who choose to travel on the plane was also mentally sick.

    Just saying.

  3. For us flying in coach and low cost most of the time, planes are just flying buses—nothing glamorous about it. I travel around Asia in flip-flops and shorts because that’s what the weather here calls for, and I imagine it’s the same in the Americas right now.

  4. Her outfit was inappropriate. No one wants to sit next to a someone with their bare airports exposed in a cramped economy seat. Short and sleeveless shorts and flip flops should not be allowed on planes. When sitting next to someone in such close proximity you don’t want to be staring at their bare feet, and touching their legs and arms all flight. People have zero manners and class these days. Their parents are to blame. They were never taught better

  5. My guess is that a white woman wearing a comparable outfit would not have been stopped. I think there is more than body shaming at play here. Different “backgrounds”…

  6. @ Steve — I think you’re missing the point. You’re saying what you think shouldn’t be allowed, and not what isn’t allowed. Sometimes I sit next to people wearing flip flops who have disgusting feet. Am I happy about that? No. Do I think they should be kicked off the plane? No, because they’re not breaking any rules.

  7. I can’t help but feel like there was racial bias involved here, especially with the comment “Don’t make a scene.” What’s even more crazy is this was such a short flight– Kingston to Miami is scheduled for 2 hours so the flight time must be 1.5 hours at the most. Who cares what anyone is wearing?

    In any case this seems like an isolated power trip. Hopefully the flight attendants involved are dismissed.

  8. @ anon — What does that have to do with what this lady was wearing on American Airlines?

  9. “@ Steve — I think you’re missing the point. You’re saying what you think shouldn’t be allowed, and not what isn’t allowed. Sometimes I sit next to people wearing flip flops who have disgusting feet. Am I happy about that? No. Do I think they should be kicked off the plane? No, because they’re not breaking any rules.”

    +1. Well said @Lucky.

  10. nothing says “the finest from airlines based in worthless Trump states” quite like this.

  11. That outfit is fine. I am white but this sounds like blatant racism to me, and American Airlines knows it.

  12. A red alert for the Fashion Police but hardly worthy of being booted off. Bad taste must be accommodated. The fact that she looks like she’s got 2 basketballs stuffed in her pants is irrelevant.

  13. Such an American story. Homebound from Bangkok I had drugs in a cooler, needed refrigeration. JL Y to NRT, cabin crew provided me a pass to the, galley, with a ticket specifying the drawer number I was permitted access to. Kept expensive pills chilled.

    AA Y NRT-ORD, I asked “may I put my medicine in the fridge please?” Anyone even wanna guess the response? Hint: the story above doesn’t surprise me, at all. At all.

    Zero class, zero culture, just a Big Blue Machine.

    It’s just American being American. Nothing to see here, move along.

  14. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what she was wearing. She’s on holiday and wanted to be comfortable while travelling. I’ve seen A LOT worse. Teenaged girls in showing their butts in shorts that are WAY too short. I absolutely believe this was race related.

  15. AA has a long history of racist behavior towards African Americans, apparently, and this smacks of it. For those of you who think that racism isn’t ta play – you’re delusional.

  16. @Joe, please provide us with some examples to support your claim. BTW, do we know the race or ethnicity of the FA…it matters if there are claims of bias.

  17. I’m fairly amused that she thinks her outfit on the plane passed the ‘conservative dad’ test.

  18. I’m far from a social justice warrior, but based on what I have seen fly on American Airlines, this application appears to be completely race/body related to me.

  19. @Tim there has definitely been a spike in racism towards African Americans over the last couple years. Not historically though. The NCAAP put out a warning against American. I can think of two off hand. So many stories come and go. The rapper flying from LGA to MIA who got scolded by an FA for trying to put his bag in the first class cabin because that is for first class passengers only. Well he was.
    Another time a college basketball player was hassled and accused of stealing a blanket from a plane but there was an extenuating circumstance where he was given the blanket as a gift .

  20. Links are expressly forbidden in the comments. If you want “proof” that this isn’t an isolated incident, just google “NAACP travel advisory against American Airlines” and you’ll see that they have a history of bad behavior toward black passengers.

  21. I have seen far worse outfits on ✈️s. Personally, as a bit of a germaphobe, I don’t want any bare skin touching the seat.

  22. Before this becomes a “leggingsgate” – we must ask is this another standby (employee pass benefit) traveler that is subjected to a more stringent standards as “they” are representing their company.

    In case you forget, there was an overheard convo that went viral over what is acceptable “Employee” dress code. This “smells” like one as well. Just cuz her social media says MD doesn’t mean she wasn’t traveling as a dependent of an AA employee.

    Waiting for the FULL STORY.

  23. Welcome to America – a country where bad dress choices are common unless you fly on an airline bearing its name, whose FAs are potentially the worst dressed in the industry – lol

  24. I honestly don’t care what other people wear on a flight with one big exception – feet! Sometimes, I believe half the flying public has gone nose deaf because when those shoes come off or those stinky feet are exposed in sandals and flip flops the smell is often oppressive.

    As for this woman, she was treated inappropriately, and there probably was a racial underpinning. I average eight AA flights per month and I have seen everything with respect to crazy attire and this doesn’t even make the top 50th percentile of those cases. After flying AA for years I have never noticed any incidents of racism onboard, in lounges or any other AA venue and I hope I never do.

  25. That outfits appropriate, especially for the humid summer in Jamaica and Miami, and as a man I’ve worn worse (tank top and tiny shorts) and haven’t been stopped. It’s unsurprising that everybody is siding against a black woman and tbh I think her gender and race really play a part in the way people are siding this story, if you can’t acknowledge that you’re probably just privileged.

  26. AA is the largest airline in the world and therefore with the highest number of staff if not mistaken. There are certain rules and these might be taken a little to far from an individual. The airline has publicly apologized after a fast investigation into the matter. Has offered free ticket as a token. Probably (we don’t know) has given a warning to the involved personnel. What else has to do? Uh?

    I mean, United has had a doctor dragged out of a flight for overbooking becoming the only airline in which you enter as a doctor and leave as a patient. This incident in comparison looks a petty one to me. The airline has apologized publicly and for me the matter is more than closed.

  27. If a man boarded a plane with shorts that very clearly show the shape of his dick, I would want him to cover up. I don’t see how this is any different.

  28. I’m amazed at American Airlines, and equally amazed, Lucky, by some of your readers’ insensitive comments regarding this wholly regrettable incident. What is going-on in the United States, anyway? Is race EVER going to NOT be a thoroughly poisonous issue in your country?

    Dr. Rowe looked JUST FINE. She was on vacation. And flying out of hot-as-hell Kingston. (I’ve roasted in that city myself.) Refunding the cost of Dr. Rowe’s ticket should just be the beginning…

  29. I’m genuinely curious why everyone assumes racism is involved? I think this is more the perception of the PC norm today. No where in this story or the two posts from the Dr. does she quote airline personnel as saying anything racist or what the race of the individuals involved were.
    Did the personnel incorrectly apply the ambiguous dress code and by calling her out body shame her. Absolutely.
    May there have been actual racist motivations or context. Sure. However I’m not seeing any evidence of that based on this story or the two tweets.
    So when a person is insulted, humiliated, etc by a person of a different race why does everyone blow up and claim racism? Why can’t the individual just be unprofessional, inept, or just a general @sshole?

  30. That outfit is really disrespectful of those seated around her if she’s in coach. Given her large size, do you think it’s fair for the other passenger to be pressed up against her bare skin? How gross. In this case, she is not dressed appropriately and the airline was right.

  31. Was Iryna Ivanova (a white model) a victim of racism or body-shaming when Jet Blue made her cover up in 2017?

  32. Was Billie Joe Armstrong (a white male musician) a victim of racism or body-shaming when Southwest kicked him off a flight for sagging pants in 2011?

  33. I agree with Super VC10. She was on vacay with her son! Everyone making negative comments need too get a life! Stop Hating!

  34. @Steve – gimme a break. I’m not sure what “bare airports” are but she was traveling with her son so chances are that she wasn’t planning to have a stranger next to her. She was traveling from Jamaica to Houston via Miami – all HOT places. She wasn’t going to a board meeting – her attire was fine. I vacation in Hawaii a lot and there are always tons of people in shorts and tank tops (including men) on the flights and there’s never been an issue.

  35. It may be applied inconsistently, but I’m glad at least somebody is trying to enforce common decency here. This lady looks extremely trashy and nobody should be forced to be seated next (and in economy probably pressed) to somebody looking like that. And yes, this outfit would be less obscene but still objectionable if she lost some weight.

  36. I fly semi-frequently and it seems American Airlines is increasingly trying to offend passengers and send them elsewhere while Delta strives to make each passenger welcome.

  37. @M Casey
    American officially responded that they refunded her ticket so we know this wasn’t an employee pass.

    For those of you complaining about her body touching other passengers seated next to her, she was traveling with her 8 year old son who presumably took the middle seat. But even if her bare leg did touch you, I’ve noticed that obese men usually travel in shorts and have had their legs press against mine. Did I love it? No. But if they fit between the armrests they can sit in a single seat. My legs are long and sometimes prevent people from reclining in front of me in tight pitch. Personal space is not guaranteed in coach period.

    The varied racial undertones here are obvious, but there are always people who will pretend racism doesn’t exist. For one, Black women tend to have bigger butts. When I flew American to Jamaica once years ago I was shocked at how many woman had natural body types the Kardashians are now popularizing via plastic surgery. A dress that is the same length above the knees will be more attention grabbing on a woman with that body type than on a skinny white lady. Does that make it somehow less modest (a standard that doesn’t apply on airplanes anyway!), of course not. But in America, people of all races feel entitled to control Black bodies when what they should be doing is controlling their own reactions. It actually wouldn’t surprise me at all to hear the FA who demanded this was also Black but a religious conservative, which is no less racist when she wouldn’t feel entitled to give a white passenger the same order.

  38. This outfit is disgusting. She can wear it at Swimming Hall, beach or at home, but not in a public space like an airport.

  39. Its not that bad but its not that great either, there’s a bit more skin on display here than should be. Her mistake is that she’s dressing for the body she wants, not the body she has.

  40. people need to dress better when they are flying or traveling. Also they need to stop whining on social media.

  41. The woman’s outfit was no different than what I see on the plane by others. The flight attendant was racist. I do agree with other people; no one wants to sit so close to someone with so much exposed skin of any race or gender.

    Maybe the airlines can have a diagram, you can wear this, but not this just like this is how big your luggage can be? The clothes people wear on planes and how they behave is appalling from taking off nail polish, to walking around barefoot.

    I once watched a woman across the aisle change her outfit by wrapping her blanket around her waist. She shimmied out of her skirt and pulled on a pair of jeans. I was sitting across from her and couldn’t believe she changed her clothes in her seat, which was appalling. (Although, it was an impressive feat.)

  42. Unless that flight was filled with people who have a fetish for shoulders, then there is no excuse for such flagrant body shaming and racism. The staff on that flight deserve some form of repercussion for their truly terrible treatment of a paying customer.

  43. @Globetrotter

    That’s quite the firm verdict you’ve come to on the flight attendant’s racism. What particular facts led to that conclusion?

    Earlier I posted a few instances of the exact same thing happening to white people. Were they victims of racism?

  44. The new reality.

    “How outrageous/inappropriate can I dress or how offensive can I act in order to get attention and the blessings of the politically correct?” “What can I scam from the airline?”

    Nobody would travel in that outfit unless they were searching for attention. Totally unacceptable.

    If a stricter dress code is required by the airlines then they should get cracking to head off more nonsense like this.

  45. How many of you White people who are calling this racist, would have serious doubts about her skills if this doctor wore attire like this when they were treating you? Its not always about racism.
    She is flying on a plane with her son, its all about the perception she is leaving with people.

  46. Grow up! Stay on the TOPIC! The story is about an AIRPLANE not a Doctor’s Office! What is the problem? We live in the USA! We are FREE to do what we want!!! You can say what you want and SHE CAN WEAR WHAT SHE WANTS!

  47. Maybe back of the dress is completely open? Maybe the dress is more revealing from the side than the way she took a photo of it(clinching her arm close to her body)? Just second guessing here.

  48. The woman was flying from a beach vacation type location in beachwear. Nothing very remarkable about that, except that she looked to be in danger of bursting out of it inflight.
    In drawing attention to her ‘ASSETS’ (her emphasis) she was fully aware that her outfit might be considered borderline. A calculated risk that went pear-shaped for her.

  49. Thank you American for having a reasonable dress standard and sticking to it. She belonged on a beach, not a plane.

  50. “I’m not sure what exactly American is trying to say with the statement about being “proud to serve customers of all backgrounds,” as that seems unrelated to the issue.”

    …because this was way likely to happen if black people didn’t get harassed for their bodies and clothing styles like, all the time? Including probably this time.

  51. I’ve seen bad attire on planes, mostly on men. She looks just fine. And, unlike many people I see on planes (again mostly male and mostly white) her clothes are clean and not in disrepair and she probably doesn’t stink of cigarettes, metabolizing booze or BO. I’ll sit next to her in a heartbeat over the 350 smelly, drunk old white dude. ANY DAY.

    American can’t get out of its own way.

  52. I’m on an AA flight right now to PHX.

    A woman on board is wearing shorts that barely cover her cheeks and a bandeau top. No one said anything to her, in fact the male flight attendant quite seemed to be enjoying the view as she boarded.

    It’s no coincidence that she’s young, thin and white.

    Race absolutely comes into play here. Policing of women’s, especially WOC’s bodies is nothing new, especially in the US.

    This doctor was on vacation, this is the kind of clothing people wear on vacation. I’ve seen outfits like this in luxury hotels such as the St. Regis. Strapless top and shorts.

    Wearing normal tropical vacation clothes has no bearing on her abilities as physician or parent.

    Sometimes planes are sweltering. My personal preference is to travel more covered up (mostly because I get cold very easily), but she’s fine.

    Like someone above said, I’d happily sit next to her rather than some red hat chud in a dirty wife beater who smells like old beer and doesn’t know how to use soap or deodorant.

  53. Situations like this have existed for many years. We just hear about it more because of social media. Sometimes employees do well and sometimes employees make mistakes. I think it’s more unreal that we all make such a big deal out of every situation when thousands of people fly AA on a daily basis with no issues.

    Before social media, stuff like this happens and we say ok and we moved on.

  54. They only said that to her cause of her body if a white women walked on their with the same outfit it would be fine. This women just had a little bit more body..your welcome..She shouldn’t have to be covered up..This is sad.

  55. They only said that to her cause of her body if a white woman walked on their with the same outfit it would be fine. This women just had a little bit more body..your welcome..She shouldn’t have to be covered up..This is sad.

  56. Perhaps the doctor should have chosen a more appropriate travel outfit for her curvaceous figure. I don’t think we should speculate on what the motives were. Were the flight attendants of color? white? women? Maybe on the way onto the plane she had a slight wardrobe malfunction of which she was not aware- who knows?

    I feel badly for the Dr. because I know how it feels when a flight attendant gets on a power trip. It’s embarrassing and humiliating. (United ATH-JFK) I suggest we all use this experience to be more mindful of how we dress on a plane, when we will be in close proximity to strangers for hours at a time. The less reason we have to annoy a flight attendant, or another passenger, the less likely we are to have a confrontation. Move on.

  57. Dana
    What a great common sense idea.
    We need to be less me me me
    And more thinking about other people especially in close proximity to each other for hours

  58. The same people having a conniption over this are the same that lost it when Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless dress, but voted for the guy married to a porn actress and nude model.

  59. well, someone is jealous they don’t have those curves… however people should have more class these days on planes, but that is far and few between. I smell a lawsuit. I mean this is BS, she shouldn’t have to cover up, but in general, people need to have more class… At the very least, American should update their dress code policy….its a bit vague

  60. I believe you have used the same picture as the cover picture for a different blog post on here.

  61. Regarding the doctor who was stopped for entering the plane due to inappropriate dress, I believe the Airlines were correct. This woman is a doctor and yet she does not demonstrate common sense. She just wanted attention and to cause a scene. It was not about her being black but about her dress. You would think a woman who is a doctor would have a greater sense of pride and common sense. I would not want a woman of poor judgment to be my doctor.

  62. I can remember when Individuals would dress in decent looking clothes when they traveled by air.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *