A woman says she was briefly removed from a recent flight traveling from Kingston, Jamaica, to Miami, Florida, because of the way she was dressed, opening up discussion about what makes an outfit appropriate — or inappropriate — to fly in.
Dr. Tisha Rowe, 37, a family medicine physician based in Houston, Texas, shared the incident on Twitter in a thread that culminated with her posting a photo of the outfit she was wearing when she flew with American Airlines on June 30.
The posts garnered thousands of retweets and likes, and over 500 comments. Some said the outfit was fine, suggesting that American Airlines deemed it inappropriate because of her curves.
Rowe, who had been traveling with her 8-year-old son, spoke with TODAY Style about the incident.
"I was walking to my seat, and a flight attendant coming down the aisle, towards me, and she looked at me, and said, 'We need to talk to you up front,'" Rowe said, adding that she had already passed a different flight attendant, as well as gate agents and ground crew members, who said nothing about her outfit. "There was something very concerning in (the attendant's) expression, and I knew that something was wrong."
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Rowe said she went with the flight attendant, getting off the plane and standing in the jetway for the duration of the conversation.
"She looked at me, and these are the parts that are hard to put into words, but she looked at me with the kind of the look that mean girls in high school give a girl that no one likes, like this look of disdain, this look of, 'You're nothing,'" Rowe said. "And the first words out of her mouth were, 'Do you have a jacket?'"
After Rowe replied no, she said, the flight attendant repeated the question twice before clarifying that Rowe could not get on the plane "dressed like that."
Rowe said she asked if she could instead board the plane while wearing a blanket around her waist, in an effort to "defuse" the situation.
"Her response was, 'Yeah, because that's the only way you're getting on here,'" Rowe said. "I wrapped the blanket around my waist, and I was upset."
Rowe said the worst part of the experience was her son's reaction, noting that during the discussion he "looked like he wanted to disappear." She said he hid his face throughout the flight.
"My stomach started churning, I started feeling sick, and I was like, 'I cannot believe I have to sit on this plane for an hour,'" she said. "Writing has always been therapeutic for me, so I whipped out my phone and I just wrote (on Twitter)."
Michelle Mohr, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, said Rowe received a refund for the cost of her and her son's tickets. (Rowe said she has not checked her bank account and could not confirm the refund.)
Mohr also said the airline is attempting to contact Rowe directly.
"We are just terribly sorry for what happened to Dr. Rowe and her son, for their experience with us, and that is why we have apologized, and we really want to personally apologize to her," said Mohr.
Mohr said she had been in touch with the airline staff at Kingston's airport, but did not share their account of the incident.
Mohr urged customers to read the airline's Conditions of Carriage on its website, where the dress code policy states that fliers must "dress appropriately" and bans "bare feet and offensive clothing."
"We want to ensure positive, safe travel experiences for everybody who flies with us," said Mohr. "The guidance that we give to our passengers is simply to dress appropriately. Bare feet or offensive clothing are not allowed. So, that's pretty much using the good guidelines of common sense about what could be deemed offensive or inappropriate — showing certain amounts of skin that you would not show on the street, for example, of course, would fit into that 'inappropriate' kind of level, or if you had incredibly foul or hateful language that you wouldn't expect to wear out onto the street, that would fit that offensive clothing. But we provide very simple guidance on it."
Rowe believes her outfit was appropriate, saying she had checked it to make sure it "covered everything" before she boarded the plane.
"I always want to make sure that I'm comfortable in my skin," Rowe said. "I know that I have a lot of curves, but I don't want to be distasteful. I don't want to be that person. I'm 37 years old, I like wearing nice things that I feel comfortable in, but I'm not trying to show it to the world — especially not with my son. I know exactly how I looked, the moment I stepped on that plane."