What’s to stop us from flying nude on Southwest?

It doesn’t take much to capture the imagination of a TV producer on a slow news day. I’m talking about the brouhaha over Southwest Airlines passenger Kyla Ebbert’s attire — or lack thereof. Ebbert parlayed her fashion faux-pas into an appearance on the Today Show, and the blogosphere followed in lockstep.

Turns out Ebbert wasn’t the first person snagged by the airline’s clothing cops. Another woman has since come forward to say she, too, was told to cover up by Southwest.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enforcing a dress code in a public place. But one question that’s been largely overlooked is: Did anyone bother to tell Ebbert and passengers like her that they were expected to dress modestly for their journey before they boarded the aircraft?

Actually, no.

In fact, Southwest’s Web site suggests you can dress the way you want to. On a page for prospective interns, the carrier lists “SWA offers a casual dress code,” as one of the benefits of joining the company. Proper attire is even something of a joke at Southwest — at least if these pictures are to be believed.

I checked around to find out if any airline had a publicly-available dress code, and could only find one: Delta Air Lines. Its dress code is for travel agents who are using a discounted ticket. United Airlines has a dress code, but it’s for employees.

So it’s a simple question, really. How can passengers dress appropriately if no one tells them?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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