A Fairbanks woman was escorted off an Alaska Airlines flight Friday night after she was told her outfit violated the company’s dress code.
Ray Lin Howard said the experience humiliated her and she feels that she was harassed by the flight attendants because she is plus size.
“It felt like slut shaming, as well,” she said. “From the reaction I got from both of them, I feel like they just looked at me and treated me like I was disgusting and trashy.”
Howard is a hairstylist and rapper who goes by the name Fat Trophy Wife online. The moniker is a way for her to reclaim the word fat and remove the hurtful connotations behind it, she said.
A video of the incident posted on her TikTok account had garnered more than 2 million views by Wednesday afternoon.
In the clip, Howard can be seen wearing black biker shorts with a pink leopard-print crop top. She had flown on an Alaska Airlines plane in the exact outfit earlier in the week without issue, she said. Howard was returning to Fairbanks after vacationing in California with her husband and 6-year-old son Friday night and said she was performing at a Fairbanks bar later.
As the flight took off from Seattle, Howard was situated in the middle seat between her husband and son, she said. During the flight, she said she began to experience motion sickness and took off her top to cool down, leaving her wearing a gray sports bra on top.
A flight attendant asked Howard to put her shirt back on and she complied, she said.
Shortly afterward, Howard said, another flight attendant told her that her outfit was inappropriate because her midriff was showing, while she was wearing the crop top.
“At that point, I was astonished,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that someone else was coming up to me after I had already put the top on like they’d asked. And I knew at that point that it wasn’t going to end.”
Howard said she told the flight attendant she’d already complied — she was covered up. The exchange was quiet, and Howard said most of the passengers surrounding her continued to sleep through it. That was the last Howard said she heard from the flight attendants, and the two remaining hours of her flight passed peacefully.
When the plane landed, Howard said, crew members directed passengers to stay seated as police officers boarded the plane. She was escorted off the plane and taken to a small room in the airport to talk with officers, she said.
“It was humiliating,” Howard said. “And I honestly felt dehumanized — they told the police that I wouldn’t keep my clothes on.”
Howard was released after explaining what happened.
Howard said she feels the flight attendants harassed her because she is plus size. She said other plus-size women have reached out to her with their own stories of discrimination based on their weight.
“This is the kind of stuff that we go through,” she said. “This is exactly the type of stuff we’ve been going through for years. And nobody cares. Nobody pays attention because people generally don’t like fat people.”
Howard said she was contacted on Monday by the company and was compensated for her family’s flight. The company apologized and offered her a discount on a future purchase, according to Howard, but the apology felt empty and like a “slap in the face.” She said she wants the airline to ensure no one will be put in a similar situation going forward.
A reference to Alaska Airlines’ “casual” dress code on its website is vague and calls for a “neat and well-groomed appearance.” Soiled and tattered clothing isn’t allowed and customer service agents have the authority to refuse travel because of inappropriate outfits, Alaska Airlines’ website says. But the rules that passengers agree to follow when they book a flight with Alaska Airlines state that the airline can refuse or remove passengers “who have uncovered torsos (except the midriff, which may be uncovered) unless required due to disability.”
Howard said she was within the guidelines and wants the airline to make a more specific policy so that objectivity is not left up to employees.
In a written statement, Alaska Airlines said they had been in touch with Howard.
“We’re committed to finding out what happened and taking the appropriate actions. It’s our goal to provide caring service to all of our guests,” Alaska Airlines said. “When we don’t live up to that goal, we do everything we can to make it right.”
Representatives for the airline did not respond to additional questions.