Everyone loves going on vacation, right? The excitement builds as the weeks go by, the anticipation takes over as you start to pack your luggage, and you start to bubble over with happiness as you make your way to the airport. Of course, flying isn’t the best form of transport if you love lounging around and keeping busy.
You have to try and make yourself comfortable in small chairs and squash yourself next to your neighbor, which is why most people wear comfortable clothes for their flight. Yet, did you know that there are rules in terms of what you can and can’t wear on a flight? This woman found out the hard way when the airline threatened to remove her from her seat because of what she was wearing.
The woman in question
To truly understand this story, we need to know a little more about the woman in question. Emily O’Connor is a 21-year-old student from Birmingham in the United Kingdom. The young woman found herself in the midst of a social media storm on March 12, 2019, when she posted a thread on Twitter about her recent experience with a famous airline.
The thread quickly shocked and appalled those who read it, and they couldn’t believe that her outfit caused such a controversy. However, there were many others who agreed with the handling of the situation, and how the staff members coped with such an incident. Her thread has since gone viral and sparked an enthusiastic debate about flying culture.
Booking a vacation
Like many other 21 year olds, Emily loves to spend time with her friends and unwind after long and stressful days at college. Because of this, she decided to book a vacation with five other friends to the Canary Island of Tenerife.
They found the perfect accommodation for a group of their size, they packed their cases for days on the beach and nights on the town, and they made their way to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport, and they got ready to board their flight with Thomas Cook Airlines. As one of the biggest airlines in the UK, Thomas Cook takes passengers across the world in their planes, but it seems as though they’ve now lost one valued customer.
Packing her case
As the days drew closer to her vacation, Emily was not just thinking about the clothes that she was going to put in her luggage case. She also started to think about what she was going to wear on the plane. A flight from Birmingham to Tenerife takes just over four hours each way, which meant that Emily wanted to wear something comfortable.
However, as a stylish youngster who also likes to feel confident in her outfits, she also wanted to stay as fashionable as possible. In the end, she decided on the perfect outfit that would keep her as comfortable as possible during the flight, and one that would show off the fact that she is fashion-forward.
Causing a stir
However, Emily had no idea that her outfit of choice would cause such a stir. As she made her way onto the plane, she was confident in what she was wearing. She was surrounded by other vacationers who were all wearing items of clothing that would mean they were not only comfortable but also ready for the wave of heat that would hit them as they arrived in Tenerife.
Because of this, she didn’t even think twice about the clothing that was on her back, or the impact it would have on the crew of the Thomas Cook plane. Yet, as she made her way through the doors and onto the plane, she was told that she would have to put on a jacket. Otherwise, she would be kicked off the plane.
What she was wearing
So, what was Emily wearing? For the flight, the 21-year-old chose to wear orange pants that were made from loose material. This meant that they were incredibly comfortable to wear during the flight, and meant that she was not restricted or constricted in any way. She teamed these pants with a black crop top, and she was incredibly happy with this look as a whole.
Emily and her friends took photos while in the run-up to their journey to showcase their outfits, but they weren’t focused on this part of the day. They were just excited about getting on the plane and jetting off to their Canary Island destination. Unfortunately, this all came tumbling down.
Becoming an issue
What surprised Emily about the whole situation was that her outfit only became an issue when she made her way onto the plane. The young woman had worn the pants and the crop top for the whole airport schedule and had not had any complaints from officials working in the airport.
She had made her way through check-in, she had handed her luggage in to Thomas Cook staff, and she had even made her way through security without any issues. It was only when she stepped foot onto the plane that they complained.
Putting up a fuss
When the cabin crew told Emily that she needed to cover up and put a jacket on, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. So, she decided to put up a fuss. She was confident and happy with her outfit, so why would she have to change?
This exchange between the 21-year-old and the flight attendants lasted so long that the plane was actually delayed by 20 minutes. In fact, a voice over the tannoy stated that the plane would not be leaving the runway until Emily had either put on a jacket or left the plane altogether.
Emily didn’t see the problem in her outfit, so she was reluctant to give in to their demands. Because she was not complying with what the cabin crew was asking of her, they began to see her as a threat. Four members of staff surrounded the young woman, and they repeatedly asked her to put on a jacket.
Emily didn’t want to do this, and she could see that the staff were gearing up to grab her luggage and throw her off the plane. She couldn’t believe what was happening.
When Emily pressed the staff about their actions and why she was being called out for her outfit, she was informed that she was not following the airline’s “appropriate wear” policy. These are rules in place that give airline crew the authority to refuse customers based on what they are wearing.
However, Emily did not see this policy anywhere online and was not informed of this policy before boarding the plane. Because of this, she didn’t think it was fair for her to be singled out in front of her friends and other passengers.
Asking the passengers
Emily was so bemused by the situation that she decided to turn around in her seat and approach the other passengers on the plane. She wanted to know whether they were offended by what she was wearing and decided to open up this debate to the rest of the people around her.
As she approached this question, she was met with silence from the plane. Nobody said anything about her outfit to start with, which made her think that she was right in putting up a fight.
Telling her to shut up
Although nobody spoke up when she asked about her outfit, it was clear to see that the passengers around Emily were getting irritated. The commotion had caused the flight to be delayed, and the other vacationers just wanted to get to their destination.
Because of this, one particular passenger decided to let out his irritation. He told the young woman to be quiet and to put on a jacket, and he also called her a “pathetic woman.” While Emily understood that people wanted to get on their way, she didn’t think she deserved such abuse.
Not backing down
Thankfully, this was the only person to speak up about the commotion, but it seemed as though nobody wanted to get involved in her situation. By this point, she was still surrounded by staff members, who were all continuing to tell her that she needed to put on a jacket.
They were firm in their stance that if she didn’t cover up, she would be thrown off the plane. Emily just didn’t know what to do for her next move. Should she comply with their demands? Or should she stand her ground?
Putting on a jacket
In the end, Emily’s cousin decided to diffuse the situation to make sure that the plane could take off and that the 21-year-old student wouldn’t be thrown off the plane. Emily decided to give in to their demands and put on the jacket.
However, she was uncomfortable with the fact that the staff members did not leave her alone until they could physically see that she was wearing something to cover up the crop top. She felt as though she was victimized by the ordeal, as there was a man behind her in the plane who was wearing shorts and a string vest.
Because Emily was so angry and shocked by the events on the Thomas Cook airplane, she was left shaking in her seat after the crew members finally left her alone. She couldn’t believe that she had been treated in such a manner purely because of what she was wearing.
In fact, she didn’t realize there were any rules and regulations in terms of what you can and can’t wear. Although Emily wasn’t going to let the ordeal ruin her vacation, she also wanted to try something out.
The return flight
Despite the commotion surrounding her outbound flight, Emily still had a wonderful vacation with her friends in Tenerife. They soaked up the sun, they enjoyed good food and drink, and they spent quality time together.
Yet, on the way home, she wanted to see if she would have to go through the same experience. Her return flight was also with Thomas Cook, and Emily wore exactly the same outfit as she did on the outbound flight. She was able to board the plane without any problems, and the crew members didn’t say anything about her crop top.
Posting on social media
Emily’s return flight was all of the information she needed to believe that she was discriminated against on her way to Tenerife, so she decided to post her experience in a thread on Twitter. In a matter of hours, the tweet had become a viral sensation and reached thousands of people across the globe.
At the time of writing, the tweet amassed a whopping 38,000 likes, 12,000 retweets, and nearly 5,000 comments which were divided in their opinions. Some agreed with Emily, while others stand by the crew members.
This story has certainly called into question dress codes, and what you can and can’t wear on airplanes. While many people still stand by Thomas Cook, the airline has issued an apology over the situation.
They maintained that they “could have handled the situation better,” but they also pointed customers towards the rules and regulations of their flights. They do have certain restrictions in place when it comes to what people can wear on their planes, and it seems as though other airlines do as well.
In their apology, Thomas Cook Airlines asserted that they do have an “appropriate attire” policy which “applies equally to men and women of all ages without discrimination.”
They went on to say that their crews are responsible for enforcing that policy, and they may make mistakes sometimes. The “appropriate attire” policy printed in the airline’s in-flight magazine says that people wearing clothes that are inappropriate won’t be allowed to fly unless they change their clothes. However, the policy doesn’t specify exactly what is “inappropriate”.
The airline’s priorities
One of the things that upset Emily the most was the fact that a man on the flight was saying nasty things to her right in front of the airline staff, and they didn’t do a thing about it.
Even if they were upset about Emily’s clothing, it wasn’t an excuse to allow a passenger to say mean things to the young woman. Emily felt uncomfortable and attacked throughout the whole ordeal, and the reactions of the flight crew made it worse.
After Emily’s airplane ordeal went viral, she was invited to appear on the British daytime television show This Morning. For her interview, Emily wore the same outfit that she had worn on the airplane – loose orange pants and a black crop top.
She recounted the whole ordeal to the three anchors, explaining that she had agreed to put on a jacket if the flight attendants could show her where in the airline policy it said that her clothing choice was inappropriate.
Not all according to plan
If Emily was expecting that the anchors of This Morning would stand by her side on the matter, it was not to be.
One of the anchors said that the crop top she was wearing was an undergarment and not a shirt, and that the airline had every right to tell Emily that she had to cover up. The other two anchors seemed to agree with Emily, saying that both men and women have the right to wear whatever they want.
It’s the principle
Emily stood by her position. She was adamant that the outfit she wore was not offensive, and that the airline handled the situation in a harmful manner. She said that she wasn’t wearing her outfit to flaunt her body or to make a point.
She was simply hot, so she decided to wear light comfortable clothes. Emily also conducted a poll on Twitter in which 85% of the 47,000 people who voted thought that the airline was wrong in threatening to throw Emily off the plane.
Not the only one
Emily O’Connor is not the only airline passenger who was criticized or threatened for their attire. Last year, a model was told by a JetBlue employee that she had to change her clothes before boarding the airplane because she was wearing a skirt that revealed her undergarments.
In 2017, United Airlines came under fire for barring two girls from a flight because they were wearing leggings. And several years before that, Southwest Airlines angered some people for telling a passenger that her low-cut shirt was “inappropriate.”
Clashes over clothes
A lot of people were upset by these actions because they felt like airlines were policing women’s clothing. When United Airlines wouldn’t let the girls in leggings board their plane, even some celebrities got involved.
Meanwhile, they claimed that men were allowed to board the airplanes wearing whatever they wanted. The question of what is “appropriate attire” is subjective, and different people have different answers. Incidents like the one that involved Emily O’Connor prompt discussion and debate about what’s okay and what’s not.
In the past, people got dressed up to travel by air. Women would wear skirts and high heels while men would only be seen in suits and ties.
Things are a bit different these days, and it’s completely normal to see flights full of men and women in sweatpants or even pajamas. After all, long flights can be exhausting, and people want to be as comfortable as possible. It seems that airlines might just have to adjust their policies to the reality of modern air travel.