Thursday, September 06, 2007

Southwest flight attendants: fashion police?

According to this story relayed by USA Today's Ben Mutzabaugh, Southwest Airlines is enforcing a dress code. At least, that's apparently what happened when a college student attempted to board a flight from San Diego to Tucson a couple of months ago:
Southwest is in the news in San Diego after a flight attendant apparently objected to the outfit worn by college student and Hooters waitress Kyla Ebbert. At least that's the word from San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Gerry Braun, who writes that Ebbert was "escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight two months ago" for wearing "a white denim miniskirt, high-heel sandals, and a turquoise summer sweater over a tank top over a bra." (Check out the Union-Tribune's photo of the outfit Ebbert says she was wearing for the flight.) Ebbert says that after she had taken her seat, a flight attendant asked her to come out into the jetway and asked her to change.

"I asked him what part of my outfit was offensive," Ebbert says to Braun. "The shirt? The skirt? And he said, 'The whole thing.' " Ebbert adds she was lightly dressed because she was taking a same-day trip to Tucson and back for a doctor's appointment. The temperature in Tucson that day was forecast to be between 100 and 110. Ebbert says she was asked to go home and change and return for a later flight with a less-revealing outfit. She refused, and the airline eventually relented.

Was this woman dressed provocatively? Perhaps, although I can't really argue with the notion of a 23-year-old Hooters waitress dressing for attention. The question is whether her attire was "offensive" enough to warrant being taken off a plane. If you click through to her picture in the Union-Tribune article, it certainly doesn't look like she was dressed inappropriately. She's not wearing anything that I haven't seen young women wear in public places before.

Of course, there are always two sides to every story. Is the picture of her in the Union-Tribune article really what she was wearing when she was asked to step off the airplane? Or is the fact that her legs are crossed and her hands are in her lap indicative that she was, eh, missing something underneath? I'd certainly like to hear Southwest's take on this incident, but they apparently won't tell the Union-Tribune anything more than “there were concerns about the revealing nature of her outfit.” Really? What, exactly? Was her miniskirt too short? Was it shorter than this?

The bigger question is this: does this incident suggest that Southwest is going to start enforcing a new dress code? I fly Southwest regularly, and I'm all too familiar with the attire that a not-insignificant segment of their customer base wears. I'm talking about scruffy-looking men with tank tops (check out my underarm hair, y'all!) and tattered jeans. Women trying to fit into clothes three sizes too small (much more revealing - and offensive - than the outfit Ms. Ebbert says she was wearing). Folks wearing filthy t-shirts. Folks who put on too much perfume or cologne. These days people show up at the airport wearing pajamas and flip-flops. I know you should dress comfortably for flights, but come on! After all, if the short skirt of a 23-year-old college student doesn't pass muster, I can only imagine what Southwest's fashionistas would say about these types of dress. Right?

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