- A Houston-area doctor said she was forced to get off her American Airlines flight after boarding and wrap an airline blanket around her waist before being allowed back on.
- She said a flight attendant told her that her outfit was unacceptable; however, she tweeted photos showing that the outfit was appropriate.
- American Airlines prohibits “offensive clothing,” but otherwise does not publish a dress code for flights.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A Houston-based doctor has accused American Airlines of humiliating her in front of her son and other passengers – all because an employee objected to her summer romper.
Dr. Latisha “Tisha” Rowe, a family-medicine specialist and founder of a telehealth company, said she and her 8-year-old son were on their way to Miami earlier this month after a week of vacationing with family in Jamaica. In a viral tweet, Rowe said she was forced to deplane after she boarded, told that her attire was not acceptable, and that unless she covered herself, she wouldn’t be allowed to fly.
In the tweet, she included a front- and side-view photo of her outfit, a one-piece romper.
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
However, Rowe said there was nothing inappropriate about what she was wearing and that she even double-checked herself in a bathroom mirror right before boarding.
“I turned, and I looked at my backside, and I kind of gave myself that, you know, girl check,” she told Business Insider in an interview. “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.”
Instead, she believes there’s a double-standard for appropriate attire that’s applied differently to women depending on a few factors, including body shape and race.
“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 said.
Rowe said she had boarded the plane without any issue and almost reached her seat when a flight attendant approached her and said they needed to talk to her at the front of the plane. She said she walked up and met another flight attendant, who directed her off the plane to the jetway.
I’ll post a picture of my ATTIRE when I land. After an AMAZING VACATION it’s ended with my son in tears with the blanket they asked me to wear to my seat over his head and will never forget this experience @AmericanAir
— Tisha Rowe MD, MBA (@tisharowemd) June 30, 2019
“There was no explanation why I was called off the plane,” Rowe said. “And all she said was ‘do you have a jacket?'”
After Rowe told the flight attendant she didn’t have a jacket, she said the flight attendant explained that the flight crew found her outfit inappropriate, and that she wouldn’t be allowed back on the plane unless she changed or covered up.
“At this point, I’m not screaming or angry or anything, but I’m defending myself. I’m fine with my outfit, like, what’s the issue,” she said, adding that she looked down and saw that her son was embarrassed and fighting back tears.
“My automatic mommy protective mode started. I’m like, ‘how do I fix it?’ I don’t want to be in this situation. I just, I want this done,” she added.
She said that since she didn’t have a jacket or clothing she could easily change into, she asked for a blanket. The flight attendant obliged, Rowe said, telling her that covering herself with the blanket was the only way she’d be allowed to fly.
“It just felt like a mean-girls standoff in the hallway at high school because that’s the only way you’re getting on at this point; as if I’m not a paying customer. I just was embarrassed,” Rowe said.
After she wrapped the blanket around her waist, she said, another flight attendant came up and warned her not to make a scene, despite the fact that she was deliberately behaving calmly to avoid escalating the situation.
“I said, ‘I’ve complied with your request, please let me on the plane.’ Three times I had to say that before they actually let me on the plane,” Rowe said. “Three times that I did not argue with them, fuss with them, and had a blanket wrapped around before they parted their physical barrier to let me on the plane.”
When the flight landed, Rowe went to a bathroom in the airport to take the photos that she included with her tweet.
American Airlines’ contract of carriage, which passengers agree to when they purchase tickets, mentions appropriate attire but doesn’t provide any details or examples. It simply reads: “Dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.”
Regardless, Rowe said the outfit was completely appropriate for the public. “I don’t want you to see me in a normal summer appropriate outfit and tell me it’s inappropriate just because of other people’s thoughts,” she said. “I have no idea what was the source of this in the first place. What I know is I was perfectly comfortable and felt appropriate.”
A spokesperson for American Airlines, Shannon Gilson, said that the airline is taking Rowe’s complaint seriously and is investigating why she was forced to cover up, and that the airline has not been able to contact Rowe.
In a statement provided by Gilson, American said:
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.
This is not the first time that individual employees for the airline have been accused of discrimination. In April 2018, a passenger alleged that police were called on her “for flying while fat & Black.” In October 2017, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People issued a travel warning to African American passengers flying the airline but lifted it in July 2018, according to Dallas News.
Rowe, meanwhile, hopes that no one else has to deal with subjective rules being applied to normal summer clothing just because an outfit looks different on different body types.
“I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else. I just want things to be fair, to be objective and to – for everyone to be able to fly without feeling like you have to fit into a certain mold.”
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