Etiquette: Kyla

Etiquette: Kyla

"When you were getting dressed that morning, did you think that this was even a close call?" Dr. Phil asks Kyla.


"I've worn that outfit on Southwest flights before and never had a problem, so I had no reason to believe that it would be anything," she replies.


Kyla recounts what happened that fateful day at the airport. "I was approached after I had already boarded the plane and we were seat-belted in and ready to go. We had already been through the security measures. [An employee] pulled me to the front of the plane and talked to me " in front of everybody " and told me that my outfit was too provocative to fly, that Southwest was a family airline, and I would have to go home and change before I was allowed to fly on Southwest," she says.


"But you didn't," Dr. Phil notes. "What happened?"


"I had a doctor's appointment " a post-op for a surgery that I'd had " so I had to be on that flight. I told him this. He said, 'OK, well go downstairs and pull your luggage. You can change into something you brought,'" Kyla recalls. "I told him I didn't bring anything; I was only going for two hours. He told me to go to the gift shop and buy something to wear. I told him that he was crazy because I just spent $250 on a plane ticket, and I was not spending another $30 on an 'I Love San Diego' T-shirt from a gift shop at the airport."

"You've said that there have been a lot of differing opinions about this," Dr. Phil points out. "What are the two sides that you've heard?"


"The overwhelming majority has been positive feedback, which I really appreciate," Kyla replies. "On the other side, there are people who are entitled to their own opinions. They think I should have worn something different. They also were not going to Tucson in the middle of July in 110 degree weather. I feel I was dressed appropriately for where I was going."


Dr. Phil turns to Kyla's mother, Michele, who wrote a letter to Southwest protesting her daughter's treatment. "What response did you get?" he asks.

"I expected to get a letter back apologizing: 'Oh, my goodness. We're so sorry. We embarrassed your daughter. We made her feel uncomfortable. Here are some drink tickets.' Maybe even, 'Here's a free flight,'" she explains. "The response I got back was chastising her even further: 'We stand by our employee 100 percent. We reserve the right to pull people off a flight for patently offensive behavior or clothing,' and that was pretty much it."

Dr. Phil notes that Kyla has enlisted the services of an attorney, Marty, in this matter. "What's your job here?" he asks Marty.

"I think our concern is that Southwest has no dress codes," Marty replies, "which means that you have 10,000 Southwest employees running around, and any one of them can make a decision that what you're wearing, Dr. Phil, is not appropriate for the airline, and you must leave the airline."

Dr. Phil gets right to the point. "Are y'all going to file suit?" he asks.


"We've not decided if we're going to file a lawsuit," Marty replies.


This perplexes

Dr. Phil. "What would your damages be?" he inquires.


"She's been embarrassed; she's been humiliated " she has plenty of damages," Marty assures him. "Kyla's concern is that the airlines have to take a look at how they handle dress codes, if they have one. If they don't have one, and if they'd like to enact one, maybe they should go ahead and do that. But they have no stated dress codes."


Dr. Phil turns to Kyla. "What do you say to the people who say, 'Girl, get over it! You've been all over the media. It made you famous. Have fun with that. Get over it and go on'?"


"That wasn't really my objective, to begin with, was any fame. I want an apology, the same thing I've been asking for since we landed in Tucson," she explains. "If this is the only way to get Southwest to apologize to me, I will go on 1,000 talk shows until I get that apology."

Dr. Phil turns to Steve, a recent passenger on United Airlines who found himself in the same predicament as Kyla. Steve steps on stage wearing the same outfit he wore on the airplane " shorts and sandals " which earned him a reprimand. "For boarding First Class, you have to be dressed in slacks and shoes," Steve explains. "I wasn't aware of any dress code, but actually, there is."


Dr. Phil introduces Peggy Post, etiquette expert

and author of Excuse Me, but I Was Next ... "The key thing is not to embarrass a person, not to make a big scene in front of other people," Peggy explains. "The other thing is to have a clear policy for employees because every employee is going to have a different interpretation."

Dr. Phil turns to Abby, Director of Corporate Communications for Virgin America, and notes that her airline doesn't have a dress code for economy or first class. "If somebody got on with something that was offensive " like a racist T-shirt " everybody would intervene then, right?" he asks.


"That's kind of where we draw the line. We don't have a formal dress code," Abby replies. "We'd certainly try to take the guest aside and not do it publicly." 


Dr. Phil shows a picture of the outfit Kyla wore on Southwest. "Would there be a problem with her flying on your airline with that?" he asks Abby.


"No. We think she looks fantastic!" she gushes. Turning to Kyla, she says, "We wanted to invite you, anytime you want, to fly Virgin America."


Abby gives Kyla two roundtrip tickets, and invites her to be a special guest on Virgin America's inaugural flight to Las Vegas on October 10.

Gary Kelly, the Chief Executive Officer at Southwest Airlines, issued a statement to Kyla. Dr. Phil reads: "From a company who really loves PR, touché to you, Kyla! Some have said we've gone from wearing our famous hotpants to having hot flashes at Southwest. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we both know, this story has great legs, but the true issue here is that you are a valued customer, and you did not get an adequate apology. Kyla, we could have handled this better, and on behalf of Southwest Airlines, I am truly sorry. We hope you continue to fly Southwest Airlines. Our company is based on freedom, even if our actions may not have appeared that way. It was never our intention to treat you unfairly, and again, we apologize."


Dr. Phil adds that the airline will give Kyla two roundtrip tickets anywhere Southwest flies. "Does this put this [issue] to rest for you?" he asks.


"I will not appear on any more TV shows from here on out," Kyla vows.


"No talk shows, no lawsuits. You're just going to fly around and have fun?" Dr. Phil presses.


"No talk shows," Kyla repeats with a coy smile.

"Are you saying that this does not put this to rest for you?" Dr. Phil presses.


"I'm not saying that it does or doesn't," Kyla begins.

"You're kidding!" Dr. Phil exclaims. "You told me three or four minutes ago that all you wanted was an apology. The CEO of Soutwest Airlines has personally given you an apology. Are you saying now that's not enough?"


"No, I said that if I receive an apology, I will not do one more TV show saying anything negative about Southwest," Kyla clarfiies.


Dr. Phil turns to Marty. "As her attorney ... you still want to be able to sue these people?"


"Absolutely," Marty replies. "Kyla has been on so many shows. This happened July 3. It took two months for them to apologize."


Dr. Phil doesn't mask his shock. "Oh, come on! Are you kidding me?" he says. "I just have to say " I'm just being honest " I would have a real problem paying my tax dollars to a court system to litigate this matter. They've said they were sorry. They gave you free tickets. They've done everything they can to shut this thing down."

Marty explains why an apology does not suffice. "I know Kyla wants to make certain this does not happen to anyone else in the future, and their people are not trained."


Dr. Phil takes him to task. "They fly 96 million people a year. They have the number one safety record in the country. They have the number one on-time record in the country," he points out.


Dr. Phil turns to Kyla. "I think what happened to you was not right,"he sympathizes. "But there's a point at which you make your statement and move on instead of trying to cash in and make it a payday."


Kyla hands the complimentary Southwest tickets back to Dr. Phil. "I appreciate the apology," she says flatly, "however, I will not be flying with Southwest, so I will not need those tickets."


"What happened from the time I read this [statement] to now that you got mad at Southwest again?" Dr. Phil probes.


"I'm not mad; I just will not fly with them," Kyla clarifies. "I have gotten my message across. They have apologized; that's what I was asking for, and I will not seek any more publicity telling anybody what they've done." 


"I really do hope you just put this to bed. It's time to move on, in my opinion," Dr. Phil says.