DALLAS – Southwest Airlines Co. says it is apologizing to a young California woman who was told her outfit was too skimpy to fly, and it's using the brouhaha as a marketing ploy — announcing a "miniskirt fare sale."
The aggrieved woman, Kyla Ebbert, took her case Friday to "The Dr. Phil Show." Host Phil McGraw read an apology from Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly during the show, which is scheduled to air Tuesday.
Ebbert said she was on a Southwest plane ready to take off from San Diego on July 3 when an airline employee asked her to change her miniskirt, top and sweater or get off.
In a compromise, the 23-year-old was allowed to stay on the flight to Tucson, Ariz., after pulling her skirt down and her top up.
Kelly said the airline apologized to Ebbert in August and thought the affair was over. But in the past two weeks, Ebbert went on NBC's "Today Show" and then "The Dr. Phil Show."
Ebbert's account, and a similar one by another young California woman this week, led to unfavorable press coverage and Internet chatter about Dallas-based Southwest. Newspaper columnists and bloggers derided the airline — which put its stewardesses in hot pants and called itself "The love airline" in the 1970s — as prudish.
So Kelly decided to change the tone Friday by issuing another apology to Ebbert — company President Colleen Barrett was dispatched to phone her — and announce a miniskirts-and-hot pants fare sale.
"It is quite humorous, given that we were born with hot pants," Kelly said. "We're trying to be good-humored about all this."
Kelly declined to give his opinion of Ebbert's July 3 outfit, and said the airline needs to "lean towards the customer."
"We don't have a dress code at Southwest Airlines, and we don't want to put our employees in the position of being the fashion police," he said, "but there's a fine line you walk sometimes in not offending other passengers."
Kelly said Ebbert is a regular customer of Southwest and he hopes to keep it that way.
On Friday, the airline offered Ebbert two free round-trip tickets, and it issued a double entendre-laced press release announcing "skimpy" sale fares of $49 to $109 each way, available for 10 days.
Efforts to reach Ebbert were unsuccessful.
Airline officials said they hadn't contacted another woman, Setara Qassim, who told a TV interviewer this week that a Southwest employee made her wrap a blanket over her short dress with plunging neckline. Southwest officials said they had no record of Qassim, 21, filing a complaint.