Southwest Airlines truly despises their customers. Or at least seems to think that its employees should tell Southwest passengers what they can or cannot wear on their planes. Most of the television-watching world is familiar with the recent incident in which passenger Kyla Ebbert–a 23-year-old college student–was removed from a Southwest flight because some prudish nitwit of a Southwest flight attendant thought her attire (pictured below) was inappropriate.
Maybe on Saudi Air, but this is America! There is nothing wrong with thats outfit!
Here is how it played out, according to MSNBC.com:
Not according to a Southwest employee
identified only as “Keith,” who approached Ebbert after she had taken
her seat on the plane and was listening to the flight attendants go
through their pre-departure routine.
asked her to step off of the plane and when they were in the jetway, he
told her that her clothing was inappropriate and asked her to change
told me, ‘I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to take a later flight.
You’re dressed inappropriately. This is a family airline. You’re
dressed too provocative to fly on this flight,’ ” she told Lauer.
“I said, ‘What part of it, the shirt, the
skirt? Which part?’ ” Ebbert continued, recounting her conversation
with Keith about her outfit. “And he said, ‘The whole thing.'” I said,
‘I didn’t bring any luggage with me. I don’t have anything to change
into. What can I do to make sure I can get onto that flight?’ I had a
doctor’s appointment. I had to be there.”
said ‘You can go to the gift shop and you can buy something to wear
there. Until then, you’re not flying on this flight,’ ” Ebbert said.
compromise was finally reached when Ebbert promised to pull up her top,
which wasn’t showing cleavage to begin with, and pull down her tiny
Ebbert went back onto the plane and to her seat, feeling that every eye on the plane was staring at her.
“I was humiliated. I was embarrassed. They all heard him lecturing me,” she said.
She asked for a blanket, covered her legs, and cried quietly all the
way to Tucson.
That jackass “Keith” publicly humiliated poor Kyla and made her cry. Rogue employee, right? Automatic apology, right? Especially after Kyla shared her story on the Today show and several other media outlets, holding Southwest up to well-deserved ridicule.
Important to note — this incident happened in June, but was not publicized until a couple of weeks ago:
The Ebberts had not gone public with the story, which happened two
months ago, asking only for an apology from the airline. But none was
All she wanted was an apology. All Southwest had to do was give her an apology and this would never have been a story. But noooooooo. Southwest would not apologize. Thus Ms. Ebbert launched her media blitz to shame the airline into capitulation.
Ah, you’re thinking. But maybe Southwest has a published dress code for passengers, designating allowable skirt lengths and so forth?
The newspaper on Tuesday quoted the Southwest agent it spoke with as
saying, “… We don’t have a dress code.”
Oh. Well, maybe insulting and embarrassing passengers is standard procedure for Southwest.
The President of Southwest Airlines, Coleen Barrett, as featured
speaker at Texas Christian University, defended the actions of its
employee and she is further quoted as saying Southwest Airlines won’t
likely apologize to Kyla. She concluded by saying that Southwest
Airlines continues its culture of putting its employees first and
trusting them to make appropriate decisions as with the scenario
involving Kyla. In other words, leaving the door open to have this
happen again. (Dr phil.com)
“Southwest: We’re Right and You’re Wrong” Yeah, I can’t wait to buy a ticket and fly with these jerks.
I’m no Harvard MBA, but isn’t is usually “putting customers first?” Maybe I have that wrong.
Anyhow, frustrated by Southwest’s mule-headed intransigence, Ms. Ebbert went on her media tour, culminating this week with an appearance on Dr. Phil. If anyone can make peace between an abusive airline and its wronged passenger, it’s Dr. Phil. Right?
Not quite. After Kyla Ebbert shared her story yet again, Dr. Phil read a statement of apology from Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly:
“From a company who really loves PR, touché to you, Kyla! Some have
said we’ve gone from wearing our famous hotpants to having hot flashes
at Southwest. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we both know,
this story has great legs, but the true issue here is that you are a
valued customer, and you did not get an adequate apology. Kyla, we
could have handled this better, and on behalf of Southwest Airlines, I
am truly sorry. We hope you continue to fly Southwest Airlines. Our
company is based on freedom, even if our actions may not have appeared
that way. It was never our intention to treat you unfairly, and again,
Oh, where to begin.
First, it took over two and half months and an avalanche of bad publicity for Southwest to apologize. Point against.
The apology comes from the CEO. Point for. But he didn’t issue it in person or even send a persona letter to Ms. Ebbert. No, he apologized via the Dr. Phil show. 5 points against.
Now let’s look at the substance of the apology. It starts out by trivializing the whole situation. Now, granted, in the grand scheme of things the whole dispute is trivial. No one died or was seriously injured as a result of Southwest’s actions. But as a matter of customer service, Southwest should take this seriously. And clearly they don’t. Mr. Kelly thinks he’s funny: “we’ve gone from wearing our famous hotpants to having hot flashes.” and “this story has great legs.”
It is often a good idea to open with a joke … but not so much when you’re apologizing. If you really mean it, that is. While the rest of the statement does sound like a proper apology, the jokey opening lines drains the rest of any real meaning. 10 point against
Also, keep in mind this is being read aloud by Dr. Phil. 50 more points against.
It is not surprising that Ms. Ebbert was somewhat underwhelmed by this apology. Dr. Phil proceeds to take her to task for not being satisfied with the apology, despite having her real concerns about her arbitrary treatment treated as one big joke.
You’re kidding!” Dr. Phil exclaims. “You told me three or four minutes
ago that all you wanted was an apology. The CEO of Southwest Airlines
has personally given you an apology. Are you saying now that’s not
Well, Dr. Phil, sorry to say this … but you’re wrong. And Ms. Ebbert was quite justified in handing back the two free tickets Southwest Airlines had you give her and saying she won’t be flying Southwest again in the future. Good for her!
You don’t think Southwest was making light of the whole incident? Take a look at this:
Southwest Airlines, under fire for reportedly threatening to toss a
female passenger off a flight because she was wearing a semi-revealing
outfit, is trying to turn the controversy to its advantage. The airline
just issued a pun-laced apology to the passenger, Kyla Ebbert, and
announced it is launching a national sale today featuring “mini-skirt”
fares. (Orlando Sentinel)
Yeah, real sincere. Will no one give this poor woman her due? But, hark, what is this I hear? There, on the horizon! Could it be her knight in shining armor? Yes! It is! Riding to her emotional rescue is …
Sir Richard Branson!
That’s right. Fun-loving Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Airlines and soon-to-launch Virgin America dispatched one of his minions to save the day:
Dr. Phil turns to Abby, Director of Corporate Communications for Virgin
America, and notes that her airline doesn’t have a dress code for
economy or first class. … Abby gives Kyla two roundtrip tickets, and invites her to be a special
guest on Virgin America’s inaugural flight to Las Vegas on October 10.
(On the same show, Virgin America also offered round-trip tickets to a harried mother of a talkative toddler who was kicked off a Continental Airlines flight by an evil shrew of a flight attendant after the mother rebuffed the suggestion that she drug her child with “Baby Benadryl” Just for the record, Sir Richard is da man.)
Trust me, given a choice between flying Southwest and flying Virgin America, I’m going with Virgin America.
I don’t wear miniskirts (or any skirts), so I’m probably in no danger of being evicted from a flight on those grounds. But do I really want to patronize an airline that throws hot 23-year-olds in mini-skirts off their planes?
I think not.
PS: From Time: 1970s: Southwest Airlines experiences a dramatic
jump in ticket sales when its flight attendants start wearing white
go-go boots and hot pants. The airline adopts a new motto to match
(“Sex sells seats”) and begins serving in-flight drinks with names like
Passion Punch and Love Potion.