Dr. Latisha “Tisha” Rowe, a family medicine specialist, was removed from an American Airlines plane because her outfit was viewed as “inappropriate” by flight staff. Dr. Rowe was directed off the plane, as she and her eight-year-old son were about to take their seats.
On the jetway, Dr. Rowe was confronted by a different flight attendant, who asked Rowe if she had a jacket, suggesting that she would be allowed on the plane if she were to cover up.
Dr. Rowe stated that she is both conscientious about what she wears and aware of double-standards in dress when it comes to women and people of color, but she was still surprised when approached by a flight attendant about her outfit: a romper. Dr. Rowe, who noted that there were other women wearing similar outfits on the plane from Jamaica to Miami, believes that her curves and the color of her skin may have been the real problem after a flight attendant told her that flight crew had flagged her outfit.
Taking care not to upset her son, Dr. Rowe attempted to deescalate the situation, during a series of insistent exchanges with the flight attendant, who she said was “embarrassed and fighting back tears.”
The flight attendant told Dr. Rowe that she would not be allowed back on the plane if she didn’t change her clothes or cover up.
Dr. Rowe and her son were only allowed back on the plane when the doctor covered herself with a blanket as she boarded the plane which she did, feeling “humiliated.” She was instructed to stay covered during the duration of the flight.
“If I were a white woman, you would have not asked me to get off the plane,” Rowe told the flight attendant during their series of exchanges.
Recent research study findings concerning black women and their bodies could shed some light on Dr. Rowe’s recent experience with American Airlines.
- The Pacific Standard article “Research Suggests Black Women are More Likely to Be Objectified And Dehumanized” which summarizes recent study findings learned asserts that the findings support the perceptions of black women who believe that they are looked at differently than others.
- Using eye-tracking technology, one study gathered these findings by tracking how long study participants gazed on black women’s breasts and groin areas.
- The study found that black women are objectified more often and seen as less human.
After arriving at her destination in Miami, Dr. Rowe took to Twitter to share a photo of herself wearing the romper that ostensibly got her removed from the plane. In her tweet, she implies that she was asked to cover herself with the blanket because the romper shorts which did not cover her legs or shoulders caused her to be sexualized:
“Here is what I was wearing when @AmericanAir asked me to deplane for a talk. At which point I was asked to ‘cover up’ When defending my outfit I was threatened with not getting back on the flight unless I walked down the aisle wrapped in a blanket. #notsofriendlyskies”
Other doctors on twitter were quick to reply to the post.
The following day Twitter user Traci Marie commented on Dr. Rowe’s post stating that she had recently flow wearing much less than Rowe, saying “My frame is smaller, my skin is fair & that’s not a coincidence.”
Others were quick to agree that the decision to boot Dr. Rowe from the plane had to be related to her race.
@RighteousVnger asked, “
@AmericanAir why did I IMMEDIATELY know upon reading the headline that the woman in the romper was black? #notsofriendlyskies shame on you and you lost a client (that you never had) for life.”
Twitter user Sunit Sanghrajka also supported Rowe and condemned American Airlines, saying that it was the airline that was inappropriate and not Dr. Rowe: “This is so inappropriate. American Airlines are now the “Fashion Police”
#notsofriendlyskies. This is discrimination!
Erin Turnigan said, “You would think a company that is “
#ClearedForLove” would be cleared for allowing women to wear whatever they please on their flights,” implying that the airlines showed no love to Dr. Rowe at all.
American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson, said in a public statement, that the airline has attempted to reach out to and apologize to Dr. Rowe and her son Chase.
Perhaps fearing further public backlash, in the statement, Gilson stated that the company has refunded Rowe for her travel. In 2017, the NAACP issued a travel warning about the airline that stated in part ” booking and boarding flights with American Airlines could subject them disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.” This ban was not lifted until 2018 sometime after Dr. David Dao was assaulted by flight crew and dragged bloodied from the plane after refusing to give up his seat when he and a few other passengers were randomly selected to be removed from the flight to make room for additional flight staff.
Regarding this most recent incident Shannon Gilson made the following statement:
“We were concerned about Dr. Rowe’s comments, and reached out to her and our team at the Kingston airport to gather more information about what occurred,” Gilson added. “We want to personally apologize to Dr. Rowe and her son for their experience, and have fully refunded their travel. We are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds and are committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us.”
Given its track record, it is unclear whether refunding Dr. Rowe’s flight costs is an attempt from American Airlines to manage their reputation and avoid a lawsuit. Still, Dr. Rowe, who has sought legal counsel in this matter, has said, through her lawyer that she will give the airline an opportunity to “make it right.”