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Woman required to cover up on American Airlines flight says race was a factor

(AFP/Getty Images/File)

NEW YORK — A Texas doctor says her race was a factor when she was briefly removed from a recent American Airlines flight and required to cover herself with a blanket before being allowed back on the plane.

Dr. Tisha Rowe, who identifies as African American and Caribbean American, posted a widely shared tweet about the episode, including a selfie of the romper she was wearing on the June 30 flight from Jamaica to Miami.

Rowe, 37, is a family physician in Houston and founded a telemedicine company in 2014.

“Had they seen that same issue in a woman who was not a woman of color, they would not have felt empowered to take me off the plane,” Rowe said.

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American Airlines apologized and agreed to issue a refund to Rowe, according to Shannon Gilson, a spokeswoman.

“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 said. “We apologize to Dr. Rowe . . . and have fully refunded [her] travel. We are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds.”

American Airlines has grappled with discrimination complaints before.

In 2017, the NAACP took the unusual step of issuing a national travel advisory for the airline, warning that black travelers could be subject to “discriminatory” or “disrespectful” treatment. The group cited a series of episodes of black passengers being removed from flights or bumped from first class.

Last July, the NAACP lifted the travel advisory after the airline agreed to training for its 130,000 employees, as well as the adoption of a new discrimination complaint resolution process.

Derrick Johnson, NAACP president, said the group wanted to get all the facts about what happened to Rowe.

The day of the encounter, June 30, was a hot one: The temperature in Kingston, Jamaica, had a high of 94 degrees, and the high in Miami was 89 degrees, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Rowe said she was walking to her seat when a male flight attendant, whom she described as black, asked her to return to the front of the plane. Another flight attendant, who was also black, then spoke to her about her appearance while she stood on the jet bridge, Rowe said.

The airline’s conditions of carriage, which are posted on its website, make a brief reference to a dress code: “Dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.”

“We are policed for being black,” Rowe posted on Facebook during the flight. “I’ve seen white women with much shorter shorts board a plane without a blink of an eye.”