On March 2, Emily O'Connor prepared to fly from Birmingham to the Canary Islands, Tenerife. Yet the 21-year-old was threatened with being removed from the flight at Birmingham airport because her clothing was "inappropriate" and "causing offence."
The trainee accountant was flying with Thomas Cook Airlines and was wearing a black crop top from Zara and mustard high-waisted trousers. She initially passed through the airport without incident.
Yet once she boarded the fight, at least four staff members surrounded her and prepared to forcibly remove her from the plane if she didn’t change.
Flying from Bham to Tenerife, Thomas Cook told me that they were going to remove me from the flight if I didn’t “cover up” as I was “causing offence” and was “inappropriate”. They had 4 flight staff around me to get my luggage to take me off the plane. pic.twitter.com/r28nvSYaoY- Emily O'Connor (@emroseoconnor) March 12, 2019
In an interview with The Sun, O’Connor called the incident "the most sexist, misogynistic, embarrassing experience of my life."
On boarding the aircraft, she exchanged pleasantries with the cabin crew, and walked along the aisle to her seat.
"I’d only gone a few steps when one of the cabin crew said, 'Excuse me madam, you’re not dressed appropriately and you’re not complying with our code'," she told The Independent.
She was shown a copy of the inflight magazine, which on page 113 noted: "Customers wearing inappropriate attire (including items with offensive slogans or images) will not be permitted to travel unless a change of clothes is possible."
A member of cabin crew then told her: "If you don’t get changed we’re putting you off the flight."
The woman said she asked other passengers nearby whether they were offended by her outfit, to which no one replied. Things got worse, she said, when someone from the airline made comments over the speaker about what had happened.
A public-service announcement said: "If anyone is deemed to be inappropriate on this flight they will be removed." She told The Independent that she felt the messaged seemed to be "clearly directed at her" and it left her "shaking and upset."
Just to add to this: a gent 2 rows behind me was wearing a vest top and shorts...yet clearly nothing was said to him- Emily O'Connor (@emroseoconnor) March 13, 2019
A man two rows behind O'Connor was wearing shorts and a vest top, yet "nothing was said to him," she told the publication. He was, O'Connor points out, "showing much more flesh than me."
The 21-year-old also claims she was harassed by a man on the plane, who shouted, "Shut up you pathetic woman, put a ... jacket on." The crew did nothing in response, she said.
just a quick message to say thank you to everyone that has stuck up for me. I’ve been inundated with love and support off all genders and it truly means a lot 👙- Emily O'Connor (@emroseoconnor) March 14, 2019
Although her cousin gave her a jacket to wear during the flight, and she was allowed to stay on the plane, O’Connor said the staff did not leave until she "physically put it on."
Thomas Cook Airlines said it has apologised to O'Connor and the airline's cabin services director had spoken to her "to find out more information" about the incident.
"We are sorry that we upset Ms O’Connor," the airline said in a statement. "It’s clear we could have handled the situation better."
"In common with most airlines we have an appropriate attire policy. This applies equally to men and women of all ages without discrimination. Our crews have the difficult task of implementing that policy and don’t always get it right."
Outrageous. What were the comments over the speaker?- GAB: mcajoo 🐸 (@cajoo) March 13, 2019
The airline's clothing policy stipulates that customers wearing "inappropriate attire (including items with offensive slogans or images) will not be permitted to travel unless a change of clothes is possible." Passengers must wear footwear while on the aircraft, it states.
Twitter users responded with anger to the incident, calling it "appalling" and "outrageous".
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