Money, Morality and SWA

Kyla the fashion criminalKyla Ebbert is the sort of woman who would never rate media attention unless she was involved in a serious crime or tragedy but she made national news in the US by committing a questionable fashion crime. In the summer of 2007 Miss Ebbert, a 23-year-old college student and Hooters waitress, boarded a Southwest Airlines flight at San Diego, destined for Tuscon. A Southwest flight attendant asked her to change her outfit – a mini-skirt, a sweater over a tank top and heels – or get off the plane. The attendant believed the skimpy outfit might offend other passengers. Kyla fought back and was allowed to remain on board after, she claimed, being lectured on proper dress.

Southwest later explained its treatment of Miss Ebbert in a letter to her mother (huh?), saying it could remove any passenger “whose clothing is lewd, obscene or patently offensive” to ensure the comfort of children and “adults with heightened sensitivities.” Not surprisingly Kyla said she was judged unfairly and humiliated, but perhaps not too humiliated.

Kyla Ebbert: Playboy.com's 'Legs in the Air' photoshootSouthwest later apologized to Ebbert and launched a fare sale that included “miniskirt prices,” and in typical American fashion Kyla parlayed her clash with the fashion police into several television appearances, even flashing the audience of the Today show with her crotch in order to prove that her skirt was not too short. As well Playboy.com featured her in a photoshoot entitled “Legs In the Air”; the Hooters waitress didn’t rate a spread in the magazine. Her fame was short-lived though and by the end of the year she had slipped back into obscurity.

Bar Refaeli for Sports Illustrated

Bar with the SI Logojet

Over the next two years Southwest’s views on proper dress must have changed dramatically. In February 2009 Sports Illustrated announced that Israeli model Bar Refaeli would be the cover model of their 2009 Swimsuit Issue and a photo from the cover shoot was decaled onto the side of Boeing 737 N922WN in a promo deal struck with Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines SI Logojet

Promotional logojets usually wear their special liveries for at least a couple of months but on the night of March 10th, N922WN flew into Paine Field in Everett, Washington to have the advertising removed due to the large number of customer complaints – some passengers called the 737 the “Porn Plane” and refused to fly on her – and bad publicity from the media. By March 16th the aircraft was back in service looking like the promo livery had never been worn. This image disaster could’ve been avoided if Southwest had paid a bit of attention to the advice its staff gave to Kyla Ebbert two years ago but so often when money talks we listen, even if it says the wrong thing.

The "Porn Plane" flies into history

Research: Angelina Pieros

Sources: JETPHOTOS.NET, National Ledger, Playboy.com, San Diego Union-Tribune, Sports Illustrated, Wikipedia