Doctor says American Airlines targeted her due to race, curvy figure

PHOTO: Tisha Rowe, a family physician, said she was humiliated on an American Airlines flight on June 30. PlayABC News
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A Houston doctor said her young son was traumatized and reduced to tears on an American Airlines flight last month when a crew member forced her to cover her summer outfit with a blanket because she thought it was too revealing.

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Tisha Rowe, a family physician, said the incident unfolded on June 30 as she and her 8-year-old son, Chase, boarded a flight from Kingston, Jamaica, to Miami. They were getting settled into their seats when she said a flight attendant asked her to deplane and ordered her to cover herself.

"My son sat there just almost, I won't say paralyzed, but I don't think I've seen my son remain so still, so frozen, and I could see on his face that he was upset," Rowe told ABC News in an interview Wednesday. "By the time we made it to our seats, he was in tears."

"I don't want the public shaming and humiliation of my son in a public place to result in him feeling like he is less than anyone else," she added.

Rowe said she was "humiliated" by the ordeal and went back to her seat with her head down, trying her best to avoid making eye contact with other passengers.

"Everyone saw me leave and then I walked back in a blanket. So it felt like this walk of shame," she said. "I remember sitting in my seat and not even wanting to look at the passenger next to me. I just turned my body so that I wouldn't have to make eye contact."

Rowe, who is black, said there were white passengers on the plane with outfits that were far more revealing than her's, but they weren't asked to cover up. She believes she was targeted due to her curvy figure and because she is a woman of color.

PHOTO: Tisha Rowe, a family physician, said she was humiliated on an American Airlines flight on June 30. ABC News
Tisha Rowe, a family physician, said she was humiliated on an American Airlines flight on June 30.

"If you are going to have a dress code, it should be applied equally to every person, to every shape and to every race," she said. "It happens because people tend to judge a book by the cover. And unfortunately, because I am a black woman, when I'm not in a white coat, the natural assumption is never ... that I'm a doctor."

She said there were other passengers on the flight "wearing tropical attire and short shorts," including one woman who she spoke with when the flight landed in Miami.

"I reached out to her just in my distress because I just needed to talk to someone," she said. "She was also a mother, also traveling with a child and she said 'no way!' She looked at my shorts and she looked at her shorts and she said 'well, your shorts are longer than mine and no one said anything to me.'"

"She was a beautiful woman but straight up and down, you know, very thin... her her shorts were teeny tiny," she added.

PHOTO: An American Airlines planes takes off as staff and employees at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C. on Sept. 17, 2015. Jason E. Miczek/Getty Images FILE
An American Airlines planes takes off as staff and employees at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C. on Sept. 17, 2015.

American Airlines issued an apology on Tuesday and said it fully refunded Rowe for her travel, but she said the apology didn't feel sincere.

"It came after the public response, demanding an apology, and if you are apologizing for something that occurred, then I would expect that apology to come with explanations," Rowe said. "I do not know why I was harassed…to offer a refund with an apology, like saying, 'here let me throw this change at you so you can go away and sweep it under the rug.'"

American Airlines also promised to hire a chief inclusion and diversity officer and establish an office for diversity, equity and inclusion, but Rowe said she wants the airline to come up with a better long-term plan to address what she called systemic discrimination.

She said she won't let the incident get her down, though.

"I feel that through this incident, more than ever, I will be empowered to dress the way that I feel comfortable, dress the way that I feel appropriate," she said. "I am not going to become a second-class citizen walking in a different way than I did before this incident, because one person and their peers, took it upon themselves to try to put me in a box," she added.

ABC News' Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.