A doctor from Texas has received an apology from American Airlines, after flight attendants allegedly threatened to kick her and her 8-year-old son off a plane because they deemed her outfit inappropriate.
Dr. Latisha “Tisha” Rowe, who specializes in family medicine in Houston, went viral on Twitter on June 30 after sharing her experience on a flight from Jamaica to Miami.
Rowe claimed that a flight attendant approached her after boarding the aircraft and asked her to deplane. Once outside, she was met by another another attendant who inquired if she had a jacket before explaining that the ensemble she was wearing, a printed strapless romper, was deemed “too distracting” by members of the flight crew.
Rowe alleged she was then told she needed to cover up. If she was not able to find acceptable attire, she and her son would not be allowed to fly.
After the humiliating incident, she took to Twitter to share front and side photos of the outfit she was wearing when the incident occurred taken after landing in the airport bathroom.
American Airlines has a “contract of carriage” that it requires passengers to agree upon the purchase of tickets. That contract mentions attire, stating, “Dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.” It does not not provide examples or descriptions of clothing that would fall outside those rules.
Regardless, Rowe said on Twitter that she felt her outfit “covered EVERYTHING” and was perfectly acceptable. And while she says she defended her outfit to flight attendants, she told Insider.com she stopped after she saw that her son was fighting back tears, embarrassed.
“My automatic mommy protective mode started,” Rowe recalled to the outlet. “I’m like, ‘How do I fix it? I don’t want to be in this situation. I just, I want this done.'”
To solve the problem, Rowe asked for a blanket that she then tied around her waist. Eventually, after repeatedly asking to go back on the plane, she claims crew members allowed her to reboard as long as she remained covered for her entire flight.
“I’m disgusted,” Rowe wrote on Twitter. “I’m tweeting so I won’t cry. Seriously. My heart hurts. … Just before boarding I posted my trip was unforgettable. Now it’s even more unforgettable, but not in a good way.”
She added that her son spent the flight in tears, with a blanket over his head.
In a statement to PEOPLE, American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said the company was remorseful and doing what they could to make it up to her.
“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,” Gilson said. “We 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,” Gilson added.
Rowe, meanwhile, has remained outspoken about the issue on Twitter — accusing American Airlines of body shaming and racial bias.
“As a mother my body has changed dramatically,” Rowe said. “Those changes mean more curves. It took time to appreciate them only to be shamed for them and even worse tell my son to be ashamed of my body as well. #bodyshaming.”
“When a white man dresses casually people will say ‘he’s the rich guy in the room’ since he is carefree and can wear what he wants…” Rowe wrote in another tweet. “When an educated black woman dresses for the occasion (island attire) she is vulgar and asked to cover up… We are policed for being black. Our bodies are over sexualized as women and we must ADJUST to make everyone around us comfortable. I’ve seen white women with much shorter shorts board a plane without a blink of an eye. I guess if it’s a ‘nice a—’ … it’s okay.“
Proper attire on flights is an ever-present issue airlines continue to struggle to navigate appropriately.
In 2017, United Airlines faced backlash after forbidding two young girls from a flight because they were wearing leggings that a crew member deemed inappropriate. One of the children was 10 years old.
Meanwhile incidents of severely underdressed passengers elsewhere have gone unpunished. On an Air France flight in February 2019, a man stripped down to his boxer shorts, but, according to his seat mate, flight attendants on that plane “shrugged” at the infraction.
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