Video: Southwest apologizes to Kyla Ebbert

updated 9/14/2007 7:24:34 PM ET 2007-09-14T23:24:34

Southwest Airlines, after getting grief for telling a young woman her outfit was too revealing to fly, is now using the brouhaha as a marketing ploy — announcing a fare sale to honor miniskirts.

The airline on Friday offered 23-year-old Kyla Ebbert two free round-trip tickets and issued a double-entendre-laced news release announcing “skimpy” sale fares of $49 to $109 each way, available for 10 days.

Ebbert took her case to “The Dr. Phil Show” on Friday. Host Phil McGraw read an apology from Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly during the show, which is scheduled to air Tuesday.

Ebbert said she was on a Southwest plane ready to take off from San Diego on July 3 when an airline employee asked her to change her miniskirt, top and sweater or get off.

In a compromise, the 23-year-old Californian was allowed to stay on the flight to Tucson, Ariz., after pulling her skirt down a bit and her top up.

Kelly said the airline apologized to Ebbert in August and thought the affair was over. But in the past two weeks, Ebbert went on NBC’s “Today Show” and was scheduled to tape an episode of “The Dr. Phil Show” on Friday to recount her tale.

Ebbert’s account, and a similar one by another young California woman this week, led to unfavorable news coverage and Internet chatter about Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co. Newspaper columnists and bloggers derided the airline — which in the 1970s put its stewardesses in hot pants and called itself “The love airline” — as prudish.

So Kelly decided to change the tone Friday by issuing another apology to Ebbert — company President Colleen Barrett was dispatched to phone her — and announce a lighthearted fare sale pegged to the controversy.

“It is quite humorous, given that we were born with hot pants,” Kelly said. “We’re trying to be good-humored about all this.”

Kelly declined to give his opinion of Ebbert’s outfit but said the airline needs to “lean towards the customer.”

“We don’t have a dress code at Southwest Airlines, and we don’t want to put our employees in the position of being the fashion police, but there’s a fine line you walk sometimes in not offending other passengers,” he said.

Kelly said that Ebbert is a regular customer of Southwest and that he hopes to keep it that way. Efforts to reach Ebbert were unsuccessful.

Airline officials said they hadn’t contacted another woman, Setara Qassim, who told a TV interviewer this week that a Southwest employee made her wrap a blanket over her short dress with plunging neckline. Southwest officials said they had no record of Qassim, 21, filing a complaint.

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