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Airline apologizes after telling woman to cover her cleavage

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

After telling a woman to cover her cleavage on a flight earlier this month, Southwest Airlines offered her an apology and a refund.

"Avital" came forward with her story to Jezebel.

On June 5, she boarded a flight wearing a low-cut sun dress tied with a rope belt under a loose flannel shirt. Before takeoff, airline staff told her cleavage was "inappropriate."

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"Although Avital was told she wouldn't be able to fly if she didn't button up her flannel shirt, she bravely bared her breasts all the way onto the plane," Katie J.M. Baker wrote somewhat hysterically at Jezebel.

Speaking in PR-tongue, a company spokesperson explained that Southwest offers its passengers a "family-focused atmosphere": "We simply ask that our customers use good judgment and exercise discretion in deference to other customers who depend on us to provide a comfortable travel experience."

The airline's "Contract of Carriage" suggests staff will refuse service to, or remove any passenger "whose clothing is lewd, obscene, or patently offensive."

Curious then, that staff didn't speak to a gentleman sitting in front of Avital, who donned "a shirt with an actual Trojan condom embedded behind a clear plastic applique," at least according to her recollection.

Avital suggests it's a gender issue. In 2007, college student Kyla Ebbert had to conceal herself in a blanket after a flight attendant decided her miniskirt was too skimpy.

But the airline appears to single men out too: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day was booted off a Southwest flight for saggy pants. He asked the attendant if there weren't "better things to do than worry about that?"

Time NewsFeed points out that Southwest's prudish dress code is a far cry from its seventies mandate when "stewardesses" in colour-blocked micro-minis and vinyl go-go boots pushed "free cocktails for everyone."

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How do you feel about revealing garb on a flight? Is it unfair to subject fellow passengers to your cleavage or butt-crack in close quarters, or is it none of their business?

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