American Airlines apologizes to woman required to cover up on flight

A spokeswoman for American Airlines said the company has apologized to Tisha Rowe and her son and issued a refund for their travel expenses.

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By Janelle Griffith

American Airlines has apologized to a black doctor from Texas who said she was briefly removed from a recent flight and required to cover herself with a blanket before being allowed back on the plane.

Tisha Rowe, a family physician in Houston, was on the June 30 flight from Jamaica to Miami with her 8-year-old son.

Rowe said she was asked to deplane at Kingston Airport, at which point she was told to "cover up" and that she could not board her flight "without putting a jacket over her assets."

"When defending my outfit I was threatened with not getting back on the flight unless I walked down the aisle wrapped in a blanket," she wrote in a tweet that has been widely shared and included a selfie of the romper she was wearing that day. She further chronicled the episode in a Facebook post.

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"My shorts covered EVERYTHING but apparently was too distracting to enter the plane," she wrote in the post that was accompanied by a photo of her son, Chase, peering sadly out of the window of the plane.

Rowe said she believed she was being policed for being black.

"Our bodies are over sexualized as women and we must ADJUST to make everyone around us comfortable," she wrote on Facebook. "I’ve seen white women with much shorter shorts board a plane without a blink of an eye. I guess if it’s a 'nice ass' vs a Serena Booty it’s okay."

Her son was in tears and covered his head with the blanket the airline asked her to wear to her seat, Rowe said, adding that he will never forget the experience.

American Airlines responded to Rowe's complaint on Twitter on July 2 and said the company had been unsuccessful in its attempts to reach her by phone and wanted to apologize to Rowe and her son and refund the cost of their tickets.

A spokeswoman for American Airlines told NBC News on Thursday the company had made good on its pledge.

“We were concerned about Dr. Rowe’s comments, and reached out to her and our team at the Kingston Airport to gather more information about what occurred," Shannon Gilson said. "We are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds and are committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us.”

The dress code listed under the airline's Conditions of Carriage states: "Dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.”

American Airlines has faced a number of discrimination complaints in recent years.

In October 2017, the NAACP issued a national travel advisory for African Americans, warning that they could be subject to “discriminatory” or “disrespectful” treatment. In taking the rare step, the NAACP cited several incidents involving African American passengers being removed from flights or bumped from first class.

The NAACP lifted the travel advisory in July 2018 after American Airlines agreed to implement implicit bias training for its 130,000 employees, to adopt a new discrimination complaint resolution process and to hire an independent firm to conduct a review of its human resources and business policies related to diversity and inclusion.