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Southwest apologizes to passenger, issues refund after dress-code dispute

Southwest Airlines has issued a refund and apology to a woman who was temporarily stopped from boarding a flight this week because of the way she was dressed.

Kayla Eubanks shared a detailed account of the incident on Twitter, saying she attempted to board a flight to Chicago from New York's LaGuardia Airport on Tuesday while wearing a black halter top.

Eubanks, 22, told BuzzFeed News that Southwest staff informed her that she was in violation of the airline’s dress code and thus was not going to be permitted on the flight. 

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A Southwest spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill that it had issued a direct apology to Eubanks and had reimbursed her for the flight as a “gesture of goodwill.”

Southwest’s policy states that all passengers should “dress to impress,” adding, “While Southwest’s dress code is relaxed and casual, you will be expected to present a clean, wellgroomed, and tasteful appearance.” 

In its statement, Southwest added, “Employees are responsible for the well-being and comfort of everyone onboard the flight” and said the airline “prohibits clothing attire that is ‘lewd, obscene, or patently offensive,’” per its contract of carriage.

In reference to Tuesday’s incident, the airline said, “Employees discreetly notified the Passenger of this clothing policy and attempted to resolve the conversation before boarding.”

Eubanks said that she was not previously aware of this policy, adding that she did not think her top would be an issue. 

“Generally I wear, like, T-shirts, sweats, or whatever to the airport, but it was supposed to be like 77 degrees in Chicago when I landed. It's only an hour-and-a-half, two-hour flight,” she told BuzzFeed. 

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In a video from the incident shared on Twitter, a Southwest employee at the gate appeared to confirm that Eubanks was being barred from the flight because of her shirt. Eubanks then asks the employee for the dress code policy, adding that she had been waiting to see the policy “for 20 minutes.” 

A subsequent video posted on Twitter showed the captain of the flight speaking to Eubanks to address the situation. Eubanks then tweeted a photo of herself wearing a T-shirt over her top, writing “the CAPTAIN of the flight loaned me his shirt so that I could board (having been removed from the flight and the flight being delayed).”

Eubanks added that she eventually removed the T-shirt and was told by employees that she would need to speak to a manager upon landing in Chicago.

In response to the company’s apology and refund, Eubanks told BuzzFeed that she believes a more appropriate gesture would be for the airline to develop a clearer policy for what is considered appropriate dress. 

“I think it needs to be nondiscriminatory. I think that as a woman, specifically a Black woman, my body is constantly policed and over-sexualized, and that's not fair to me," Eubanks said. “I think they need to take the initiative and figure out what they deem is or isn't acceptable and let that be the standard across the board, period.”