A customer service representative at Southwest Airlines recently walked Kyla Ebbert off a flight and told her to go home and change clothing because her outfit was “too revealing.”
She didn’t show up naked – she showed up in a short skirt and a tank top, and she was forced to “adjust” her clothing before being allowed to board. There was no real reason for this except the person preference of one customer service agent who clearly has a warped view about women which makes me suspect he shouldn’t be around them. Is a short skirt and a tank top a flight risk? Not that I know of – in fact, security should love that because it’s really hard to hide a weapon in an outfit that requires a seam ripper to get out of. Unless Ebbert was threatening people with a stilleto heel, not only was there no cause, but the motivation for insisting she adjust her outfit smacks of the customer service agent having a sexually predatory nature.
Now, I see a LOT of clothing that makes me cringe. That whole thing about seeing a thong really does offend me. That said, I may be offended by the sight of it, but clothing is a form of free expression and when it comes to adult paying customers, no customer service agent of any airline has ANY paternalistic rights to tell a woman what to wear or what not to wear as long as she has on the minimal clothing as required by law. If Ebbert had wanted to board the flight wearing high heels and a bikini, she should have been allowed to do so. Would I have given her a dirty look? Yes. But I wouldn’t have thought she deserved to be taken off the plane.
This is the sort of longstanding chauvinism that must be publicly exposed, and loudly contested. Any company that thinks treating women in such a manner – whether it’s their flight attendants or their customers – needs to be reminded LOUDLY and REPEATEDLY that such attitudes towards women of any size, shape, age, or dress code are completely unacceptable.
Here is the email I have sent to Jim Ruppel, the vice president of customer service. I encourage you all to write, and to have your boyfriends, husbands, partners, etc. write as well. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org:
Dear Mr. Ruppel:
I was horrified and infuriated to read about the treatment of Kyla Ebbert by one of your customer service agents. Unless she showed up naked for her flight, her mode of dress was absolutely no business of your customer service agentâ€™s, and the paternalistic chauvinism that Southwest airlines clearly supports means that not only will I never choose to fly with your airline, I will discourage people I know from flying with you and I will tell the people I know considering job offers from Southwest airlines not to work for you.
There is no indication punitive action has been taken towards the customer service agent who made this judgment call, and in fact it seems your airline has been allowing policies that let your employees abuse customers based on some twisted fundamentalist view of how people should be treated.
If you want to carry on with sick fundamentalist views that encourages the abuse of women, please relocate to Afghanistan. God knows their economy could use the boost. But if you want to continue to benefit from US based money, remember that your customers have basic civil rights and if you keep this up you will be sued and sued repeatedly.
Remember, write your OWN letter or email. If you prefer to do snail mail, which does tend to have more impact, write to this address:
Jim Ruppel, Vice President Customer Relations
PO Box 36647
Dallas, TX 75235-1647