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Thu, Sep 06, 2007

SWA Denies Having Passenger Dress Code; Chastized Woman Says Otherwise

Southwest Flight Attendants Doubling As Fashion Police?

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, at least a few Southwest Airlines employees may have a rather archaic and Puritanical view of fashion sense.

In Wednesday's story, a young woman was asked to leave a flight a couple of months ago due the way she was dressed. The flight attendant called it too "revealing." The young woman, Kyla Ebbert, had boarded the plane at Lindbergh Field wearing a denim miniskirt, high heeled sandals and a summer sweater over a tank top.

After all passengers had boarded and the flight attendants began their safety speech, Ebbert said she was asked to step off the plane by a customer service supervisor, identified only as "Keith."

Keith said her outfit was inappropriate and asked her to change. She hadn't brought luggage as she was just going to Tucson for a doctor's appointment.

 "I asked him what part of my outfit was offensive," she said. "The shirt? The skirt? And he said, 'The whole thing.'"

He then asked her to go home and change then take a later flight to Tucson, where temperatures topped 100 degrees all week, and she refused. As the plane was ready for departure, Keith made her pull up her shirt down a little bit and her top up a little - as if that inch or so of additional covering made a big difference -- and allowed her to return to her seat and put a blanket over her lap.

Ebbert, a 23 year-old college student and Hooter's waitress, said she was "humiliated" and also received a lecture on how to dress properly. She maintained herself through the short flight, but fell apart when she called her mother after her arrival in Tucson.

Using her cell phone, she took a photo of herself and sent it to her mother for an opinion and mom got more than a little upset.

"My daughter is young, tall, blond and beautiful and she is both envied and complimented on her appearance. She dresses provocatively, as do 99 percent of 23-year-old girls who can. But they were out of line," Michele Ebbert said.

To check it out, the reporter called Southwest Airlines and asked if a young woman could board a flight to Tucson today wearing a bikini top since it was so hot. The customer service rep that took the call, Angelique, said yes.

"We don't have a problem with it if she's covered up in all the right spots," she said. "We don't have a dress code."

So, what gives? A summer sweater over a tank top is far less revealing than a bikini top. (Editor's Note: Copyright laws prevent us from showing an actual picture of Ebbert's outfit... but trust us, you've likely seen far worse in restaurants and your local mall.)

In a letter Southwest sent to Michele Ebbert, the airline said it was within its rights to remove a passenger "whose clothing is lewd, obscene or patently offensive" to ensure the comfort of children and "adults with heightened sensitivities."

The reporter, along with two fashion advisors, met with Ebbert dressed in the outfit in question. The result was no undue attention other than a few glances. Furthermore, the fashion advisors said they were surprised by the carrier's stance as there nothing in her outfit that one wouldn't see on just about any college campus.

"I was expecting to be shocked, and I was shocked the other way," said photojournalist Crissy Pascua.

"It wasn't a big deal," writer Nina Garin said. "Her skirt was a bit short, which was only accented by her heels. If she had been wearing flip-flops it wouldn't have mattered."

The reporter called the author of the letter, Southwest customer relations representative Hollye Chacón, about the "concerns about the revealing nature of her outfit" to ask if they were all talking about the same outfit.

"What exactly was being revealed?" the reporter asked. Chacón said she would call back, but didn't. As the reporter deduced, that could be interpreted as rather revealing, as well.

On a related note... isn't Southwest the airline that used to tout its stewardesses, dressed in hot pants, in the 1970s?

FMI: www.san.org, www.southwest.com

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