On June 5th, Avital* was boarding a 6 AM flight from Las Vegas to New York in a comfy cotton dress, a loose open flannel shirt and a colorful scarf when she was told that her cleavage was "inappropriate." The airline dealt with the incident as it has many, many times in the past (at least when customers contact media outlets to complain): by offering the aggrieved customer an apology and a refund. Why won't Southwest stop kicking people off flights for reasons even the airline will admit are over-the-top?
Although Avital was told she wouldn't be able to fly if she didn't button up her flannel shirt, she bravely bared her breasts all the way onto the plane. "I didn't want to let the representative's Big Feelings about my breasts change the way I intended to board my flight," she explained. "And lo and behold, the plane didn't fall out of the sky...my cleavage did not interfere with the plane's ability to function properly." Imagine that!
Check out Avital's early morning flying attire; pretty casual, right? (And cute, which is impressive, given that she probably woke up before daybreak.) She wasn't exactly verging into XXX territory with her rope belt and Birkenstock-y sandals. Is it really inappropriate for a self-described large-chested woman to wear a non-constricting sundress on a 100-degree day? More to the point: is it really the airline's responsibility to dictate what is and isn't appropriate apparel? "To add insult to injury, the guy sitting in front of me on the plane was wearing a shirt with an actual Trojan condom embedded behind a clear plastic applique and had no trouble getting on his flight," Avital added. "Slut shaming, pure and simple." We'd have to agree.
Southwest spokesperson Christi McNeill told us that the company offered Avital an apology and a refund "as a gesture of goodwill," but that their Contract of Carriage allows them to refuse to transport a customer whose clothing is lewd, obscene, or patently offensive. "As a Company that promotes a casual and family-focused atmosphere onboard our aircraft and in our airports, we simply ask that our Customers use good judgment and exercise discretion in deference to other Customers who depend on us to provide a comfortable travel experience," she explained after I asked her how customers should dress for Southwest flights so they're not publicly humiliated and/or prohibited from boarding. "Our Flight Crews and Employees are responsible for the safety and comfort of everyone onboard the flight."
A Brief History of Southwest Humiliation
Southwest Airlines has become synonymous with people getting kicked off flights for ridiculous reasons. Avital is not the first woman to be deemed too slutty-looking to fly; according to Southwest's history, cleavage is not "family-friendly," even though today's median bra size in the US is 36DD. There's Kyla Ebbert, who was escorted off a flight by a Southwest customer service supervisor who called her outfit "inappropriate" back in 2007, even though she looked like any SoCal resident dressed for 106-degree weather, maybe one having a particularly conservative day. A week later, Setara Qassim was forced to wear a blanket by a Southwest flight attendant who thought Setara's top was too low cut. Hey, Southwest: it's difficult — not to mention uncomfortable — to completely cover yourself up if you have larger breasts. What's family-friendly about making your customers feel both emotionally and physically shitty about themselves?