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Airline apologizes to passenger told to 'cover up' for dress code

The young woman says she was stopped by airline officials claiming her outfit was "inappropriate."
Thomas Cook airlines flight
Thomas Cook airlines asked a young woman to cover up on board a flight.Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Emily O'Connor was supposed to have a fun flight to a sunny, warm island, but when the British woman recently boarded a plane from Birmingham, England, to the Canary Islands, she ran into an unexpected obstacle.

After checking in with security and making her way onto the Thomas Cook Airlines plane, O'Connor was stopped by airline officials claiming her outfit was "inappropriate." Like many travelers, O'Connor had dressed for the climate she was visiting, and opted for a light and breezy pair of drawstring pants and a trendy crop top. Airline officials, however, said the Brits outfit was against their policy.

O'Connor later detailed the experience on Twitter, explaining how staff at the plane's entrance initially told her to cover up. After she sat down, a flight manager and four flight staff members threatened to remove O'Connor from the flight if she didn't put a jacket on.

Surprised by their request, O'Connor then told airline staff an “appropriate wear” policy wasn't on their website and asked fellow travelers if her outfit bothered them. When a fellow passenger shouted insults at the young woman during the encounter, airline staff did nothing to intervene, according to O'Connor's Twitter.

Finally, O'Connor's cousin, who was seated at the front of the plane, handed her a jacket, but the experience was enough to shake her. "They announced that I was offensive and inappropriate in front of the whole flight. I was physically shaking, and they could see that, yet they continued to sexualise and ridicule me. It was the worst experience of my life," she wrote on Twitter.

After the incident, O'Connor appeared on her local talk show "This Morning" to defend her outfit.

"For me as a young woman — or a man, any gender, any sex — you should be able to show your body in whatever way you deem appropriate ... Anything you can wear socially, into supermarkets or shopping centers, you should be able to wear on an airplane," she said.

And many Twitter users, including a British flight attendant, reached out with an overwhelming display of support for O'Connor.

Some even shared their own "inappropriate" flight outfits in a show of solidarity.

A Thomas Cook spokesperson told TODAY Style the airline has since spoken to O'Connor to offer an apology and said they are disappointed in the way the situation played out: “We are sorry that we upset Ms. O’Connor. It’s clear we could have handled the situation better. In common with most airlines we have an appropriate attire policy. This applies equally to men and women of all ages without discrimination. Our crews have the difficult task of implementing that policy and don’t always get it right.”

They also shared a copy of the airline's clothing policy, which is available in their in-flight magazine and states the following: "Customers wearing inappropriate attire (including items with offensive slogans or images) will not be permitted to travel unless a change of clothes is possible. Footwear must be worn on the aircraft."

In the aftermath of a somewhat embarrassing situation, O'Connor told Twitter users she plans to avoid the airline in the future and is just happy for the support of her fellow social media users.

"Just a quick message to say thank you to everyone that has stuck up for me. I’ve been inundated with love and support off all genders and it truly means a lot 👙," she wrote.