Apparently the outfit Kyla Ebbert wore on the “Today” show Friday was acceptable for a national television audience of millions, but not quite up to the rigid standards set down by Southwest Airlines.
Ebbert, accompanied by her mom and her attorney, appeared with Matt Lauer to discuss a recent incident in which she was at first asked to leave a flight before it departed from San Diego to Tucson because the flight attendants felt her attire was too revealing. When she convinced them that she would adjust her outfit to meet their requirements, she was allowed to remain onboard.
And here’s the kicker: On the return flight, she not only wore the same outfit and encountered no trouble whatsoever from the Tucson-to-San Diego crew, but she told Lauer that one flight attendant actually complimented her.
Ebbert’s outfit might indeed be considered sexy, but just how revealing it was is open to debate. She wore a tight, low-cut shirt, which showed cleavage. But if the cleavage police were to suddenly pull a sting operation at all of our major airports, Ebbert would probably be let go with a mild warning. There undoubtedly are far more egregious perpetrators out there.
And Ebbert wore a rather short skirt to go with the shirt. What is unclear is just exactly what, if anything, the skirt revealed. Was this a Sharon Stone “Basic Instinct” situation? Ebbert did not address that specifically, and Lauer did not ask. But they did discuss the view of her terrain in general, and Ebbert insisted that she did not display anything she should not have revealed.
The issues here are twofold: the Southwest Airlines dress code, or more accurately, the lack of one; and the general lack of respect for customers that seems to be growing in the airline industry.
Ebbert said she found out later from a reporter that Southwest did not have a specific dress code. (That was reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, who quoted a company spokesperson as saying a passenger could conceivably wear a bikini top as long as all the proper spots are covered.) Rather, when she was initially ordered to leave the flight, she told Lauer that the flight attendant informed her that Southwest was a “family airline.”
I’ve been on many Southwest flights. And indeed, families travel on Southwest. A father, a mother, kids, etc. Most of them are good people looking for cheap fares and fun vacations.
I’ve also been stuck with loud, drunken morons on their way to Las Vegas, who are allowed to remain in their seats while they pound liquor and throw peanuts at each other.
One need only peruse Southwest’s route map to understand that Ebbert is undoubtedly not the first young woman to wear a sexy outfit. Southwest travels to many destinations in California, including San Diego and San Francisco. It has flights to many locations in Florida, Arizona, Texas and Nevada, among others.
It’s hot in many of those places. Not only do young women wear sexy outfits with low-cut tops and short pants or skirts, it is most likely the norm. Southwest caters to people who like to save money. Many of those people are college students who travel all across the United States.
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And Southwest suddenly decided that Ebbert’s particular outfit was too revealing?
Ebbert said she was humiliated. After being scolded by the “family airline” flight attendant, she said she had to walk through the plane with everyone staring at her because the rest of the passengers overheard the whole thing. And before anyone wisecracks that they were probably staring at her before the hubbub, this isn’t about wearing a sexy outfit, but rather about some airline employee arbitrarily imposing his or her idea of “appropriate” upon a paying customer.
If a passenger were dressed in such a ridiculously preposterous manner that it was causing a major distraction, that would be different. But that’s not the case here. Ebbert’s ensemble, which she stood up and showed off for Lauer, was no different than what the average coed would wear on her way to Fort Lauderdale.
Ebbert showed up on “Today” with her mom and her attorney. She said she initially wanted an apology from Southwest; she said she received a letter, but it wasn’t an apology. It’s obvious she may sue.
Southwest did not send a representative to give its side of the incident on “Today,” but the airline did issue a statement in which it said, in part, “These situations are extremely rare.”
I’m not sure I agree.
Kicking somebody off a flight for wearing a sexy outfit may be extremely rare, but the lack of consideration shown toward customers seems to be fairly common. It is exhibited in the absurdly high number of flights that are late to depart or arrive, with no end in sight. It can also be seen in the increasing incidents of lost luggage, of passengers bumped off flights, and in the dwindling number of in-flight services.
Airlines, in general, are getting a little too uppity.
If the flight attendant or attendants in question on Ebbert’s San Diego-to-Tucson run had a genuine problem with her outfit, there are better ways they could have handled it. They could have asked her from the get-go if she would mind pulling down her skirt, pulling up her top or wearing a blanket without going directly to the “you’ll have to leave this flight” card. I’ve had flight attendants offer to lend me their AC adapters so I could use it with my computer at my seat. Couldn’t one of them have lent her a jacket if they really had a problem?
But this sounds like it was an employee or employees of a major airline forgetting who puts the bread on their table. It seems all that was revealed on the flight in question was one crew’s lack of respect for the people who are really the bosses in this equation.
Michael Ventre is a contributor to msnbc.com and a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.