A 21-year-old woman was threatened with being offloaded from a flight at Birmingham airport because her clothing was “inappropriate” and could cause offence.
Emily O’Connor, a trainee accountant from Solihull, was flying with Thomas Cook Airlines to Tenerife on 2 March.
Wearing a black crop top and high-waisted trousers, she passed through the airport without incident.
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On boarding the aircraft, she exchanged pleasantries with the cabin crew who were greeting passengers, then walked along the aisle to take her seat.
Ms O’Connor told The Independent: “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 was shown a copy of the inflight magazine, which has a note on page 113 reading: “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.”
Ms O’Connor then appealed to fellow passengers, announcing: “Excuse me everybody. Am I offending anyone? If I am I’m more than happy to cover up.” No-one responded.
At this point, she says, a member of cabin crew said, “Right, where’s your bag?”
Ms O’Connor’s cousin, who was on the same flight, then lent her a jacket and she was allowed to stay onboard the plane.
A public-address announcement was then made, saying: “If anyone is deemed to be inappropriate on this flight they will be removed.”
She said that the message seemed clearly directed at her, and that it left her “shaking and upset”.
Ms O’Connor added: “There was a man wearing a tank top and shorts who was showing much more flesh than me.”
Her friend Eleanor Smith challenged Thomas Cook on Twitter: “The embarrassment she must have felt and for no good reason! Are you offended by the female body? She was going on holiday, is she expected to wear overalls?”
Ms O’Connor flew back from Tenerife to Birmingham a week later on Thomas Cook Airlines. “On the flight back I wore the exact same outfit and no-one said a thing.
She described her treatment on the outbound flight as “the worst experience of my life”.
”I felt so sexualised,” she told The Independent. “I was made to feel I was exposing myself.”
“To top it off they allowed a man to hurl abuse at me.”
A male passenger swore at her, calling her a “pathetic woman” and urging her to “put a f***ing jacket on”. Cabin crew took no action against the offending passenger.
While airlines commonly stipulate dress standards, Thomas Cook Airlines’ terms and conditions contain no mention of attire. The carrier has a number of rules about passenger conduct.
A spokesperson for Thomas Cook said: “We are sorry that we upset Ms O’Connor. It’s clear we could have handled the situation better.
“In common with most airlines we have an appropriate clothing 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.”