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.
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:
Here is what i was wearing when @AmericanAir asked me to deplane for a talk. At which point I was asked to “cover up”. When defending my outfit I was threatened with not getting back on the flight unless I walked down the aisle wrapped in a blanket. #notsofriendlyskies pic.twitter.com/AYQNNriLcq
— Tisha Rowe MD, MBA (@tisharowemd) July 1, 2019
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.