Underdressed Passenger or Overreacting Airline?
Young Woman's Outfit Raises Eyebrows, Ire of Southwest Flight Attendant
By DAVID SCHOETZ
Sept. 7, 2007
Her outfit aboard a Southwest Airlines plane two months ago first earned her a flight attendant's reprimand and now has sparked a decency debate that may result in a lawsuit.
Kyla Ebbert, a blond, shapely 23-year-old San Diego coed who also works shifts at a Hooters restaurant, boarded the flight to Tucson, Ariz., on a one-day round-trip visit to an Arizona doctor's appointment. She had settled into her seat when a flight attendant confronted her about what was later described by the airline as "revealing attire."
Ebbert's so-called objectionable attire included a white, tight-fitting shirt, a green cropped sweater, and a white denim skirt cut high on her thighs.
Ebbert appeared on NBC's "The Today Show" today wearing the same outfit and said that she was asked by a male flight attendant to come to the front of the plane by the door to the jetway. There, Ebbert said that she was told she would have to catch a later flight because she was showing too much skin and Southwest is a "family" airline.
Ebbert said she told the flight attendant she needed to remain on that flight so could make her doctor's appointment and that because she was on a day trip, she had not packed any luggage from which she could take clothes to change.
The flight attendant, she said, suggested that she go to a gift shop to buy clothes. She offered to pull the top of her sweater tight over her breasts and her skirt down as far as possible, a compromise that was accepted.
Southwest Stands by Wardrobe Adjustment
The airline does not dispute the confrontation, but stands by its decision to "adjust" her outfit.
"Southwest Airlines was responding to a concern about Ms. Ebbert's revealing attire on the flight that day," the airline said in a statement. "As a compromise, we asked her to adjust her clothing to be a little less revealing. She complied and traveled as scheduled.
"Fortunately, as an airline that carries approximately 96 million customers a year, these situations are extremely rare."
Though she accepted the compromise, Ebbert said she was left embarrassed by the situation, which she said played out in front of fellow passengers -- so embarrassed she requested a blanket to cover herself for the flight.
"I was humiliated, I was embarrassed," Ebbert said on "The Today Show." "I felt like everyone was staring."
Her mother, Michele Ebbert, who appeared with the young woman on "The Today Show" along with an attorney representing the family, wrote the airline a letter after her daughter told her about the episode and sent her a camera phone picture of her outfit.
"Her outfit is fine," Michele Ebbert said. "She looks like every other college girl in San Diego."
Ebbert claims that a Southwest Airlines flight attendant on her return trip later that day complimented her on the very same outfit that almost got her thrown off the earlier flight.
At first, Ebbert said, she just wanted an apology. She never got it, and now she's considering a lawsuit.