A Houston-based doctor says she was removed from an American Airlines flight and humiliated in front of her son because her outfit—a colorful romper—was deemed “inappropriate” for the flight.
Dr. Latisha “Tisha” Rowe, who was flying with her 8-year-old son on June 30 from Kingston, Jamaica (hot) to Miami (also hot!), described the incident on Twitter and posted a photo of the offending romper.
Here is what i was wearing when @AmericanAir asked me to deplane for a talk. At which point I was asked to “cover up”. When defending my outfit I was threatened with not getting back on the flight unless I walked down the aisle wrapped in a blanket. #notsofriendlyskies pic.twitter.com/AYQNNriLcq
— Tisha Rowe MD, MBA (@tisharowemd) July 1, 2019
That, my friends, is what you call a regular, standard-issue romper—the kind you see on every sidewalk, brunch table, and cookout across the country from now until September. If that’s too much, then how is anyone supposed to have a hot girl summer?
According to Rowe, she and her child were told to deplane and were not allowed to go back onboard until she wrapped blanket around herself. Despite knowing she had done nothing wrong, Rowe told Business Insider she complied because she saw the effect the incident was having on her son:
“At this point, I’m not screaming or angry or anything, but I’m defending myself. I’m fine with my outfit, like, what’s the issue,” she said, adding that she looked down and saw that her son was embarrassed and fighting back tears.
“My automatic mommy protective mode started. I’m like, ‘how do I fix it?’ I don’t want to be in this situation. I just, I want this done,” she added.
But even when she complied, she was still treated like a problem.
After she wrapped the blanket around her waist, she said, another flight attendant came up and warned her not to make a scene, despite the fact that she was deliberately behaving calmly to avoid escalating the situation.
“I said, ‘I’ve complied with your request, please let me on the plane.’ Three times I had to say that before they actually let me on the plane,” Rowe said. “Three times that I did not argue with them, fuss with them, and had a blanket wrapped around before they parted their physical barrier to let me on the plane.”
Rowe is certain her race and her body shape factored in to the flight crew’s treatment of her. She noted to Business Insider that if she were a size 2, no one would have had an issue with the romper. And according to BuzzFeed News, Rowe said she even told one of the flight attendants, “If I were a white woman, you would have not asked me to get off the plane.”
America Airlines’ dress code policy is outlined in its contract of carriage, stating only, “dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.” No further details or examples are given of what “appropriate” attire constitutes.
It’s also worth noting that American Airlines’ track record with black customers has been spotty at best. After a rash of high-profile incidents in which black passengers alleged discrimination, the NAACP issued a history-making travel advisory in 2017, warning its members to use caution when flying on American Airlines.
That travel advisory was lifted last summer.
A spokesperson for American Airlines, Shannon Gilson, told Business Insider the company is concerned about Rowe’s allegations and is investigating them; the airline has also refunded her and her son’s travel.
“We want to personally apologize to Dr. Rowe and her son for their experience,” Gilson said, adding that the company was having trouble getting in touch with Rowe.
Rowe may not be picking up American Airline’s calls, but her attorney, Geoffrey Berg, has some choice words for the airline, telling BuzzFeed, “if American Airlines wanted passengers from Jamaica to Florida in June to wear snowsuits, that’s something they ought to put in their contract.”