A pretty young woman boards a plane bound for Tenerife wearing a skimpy crop top . . . It may sound like the opening line of a bad joke, but Emily O’Connor’s humiliating experience on board a Thomas Cook flight recently was no laughing matter. The 21-year-old trainee accountant was nearly thrown off the aircraft because her crocheted, bra-like top — teamed with a pair of high-waisted baggy trousers — breached the airline’s rules on ‘offensive clothing’. But was it really offensive? We asked as selection of FEMAIL writers, from Millennials to pensioners, for their very opposing views.
The outfit that left Thomas Cook Airline staff threatening Emily with being thrown off the plane on the tarmac on Birmingham on March 2nd
Emily said that she wore the same outfit on the journey back from Tenerife to Birmingham (pictured boarding the flight home) and had ‘no complaints’ from Thomas Cook staff, who she described as ‘friendly’
SAM TAYLOR: It’s selfish and embarrassing
I’ve left my passport behind, lost my suitcase and even dropped my ticket down a drain. But would I forget to put on my clothes before leaving for the airport? No. Not even if I was as young and slender as Emily O’Connor.
And here’s the rub. Emily knows that she has a great figure and was keen to show it off when she boarded a packed plane wearing little more than a starter bra.
Her decision to saunter down the aisle almost naked revealed a lack of social awareness almost as stark as her lack of clothing.
It smacks of a young woman who just doesn’t care about others and social mores.
She didn’t stop to consider that it would have almost certainly embarrassed other, older passengers and possibly those with strict religious beliefs.
Perhaps she thinks they shouldn’t be looking at her — in which case, why not cover up?
Yes, we fought for the right to dress as we please — in fact, I went on marches in the Eighties where we chanted: ‘Yes means yes, no means no, however we dress, wherever we go’ — but we didn’t fight for women to ignore basic codes of public decency and complain when challenged about it.
Sam Taylor: ‘I’ve left my passport behind, lost my suitcase and even dropped my ticket down a drain. But would I forget to put on my clothes before leaving for the airport? No. Not even if I was as young and slender as Emily O’Connor’
Brewer told This Morning: ‘This is not a crop top, this is a bra’, trying to physically show viewers the back of Emily’s garment
JULIE BURCHILL: bah! she looks positively prim
In what strange, warped, dystopian parallel world does a slender 21-year-old — male or female — cause offence by showing their arms, shoulders, upper chest and 2 in of perfectly toned stomach?
One which only Thomas Cook Airlines flies to, thankfully.
Emily O’Connor was told her outfit was ‘causing offence’ to other passengers. I can only suppose that these easily offended types were envious and/or pathologically religious, but in either case it was their responsibility to avert their eyes rather than initiate the public humiliation of a young woman who was allegedly the subject of staff comments over the Tannoy before being forced to wear a jacket over her entirely vacation-appropriate outfit.
If Emily was told to cover up, as she claims, and if the airline ‘had four flight staff around me to get my luggage and take me off the plane’, and if it ‘allowed a man to hurl abuse at me while the flight manager and four air staff said nothing’, then this situation becomes sinister as well as silly. There are some places where a crop top might not be appropriate — in church or if indulging in a little light prison-visiting in an all-male jail, perhaps.
But for a twentysomething on her way to Tenerife? Honestly, it’s positively prim.
JULIE BURCHILL: ‘In what strange, warped, dystopian parallel world does a slender 21-year-old — male or female — cause offence by showing their arms, shoulders, upper chest and 2 in of perfectly toned stomach?’
ESTHER RANTZEN: I’ve seen so much worse on planes
An attractive young woman in holiday gear with not a piercing or tattoo on view: what’s not to like?
I can’t understand why Thomas Cook made such a fuss about Emily O’Connor’s clothes.
My only anxiety for her is that, in my experience, all planes are bitterly cold and in a crop top she might get goose pimples.
But apart from that, if she sat next to me I’d never complain.
It would be far better than the manspreading businessman drinking too much, falling asleep and snoring, who was my last flying companion.
The problem with flying is that it brings you in very close contact with strangers.
All too often, the leaky headphones, pungent Duty Free perfume, and teetering food trays make clothes the last thing I ever worry about.
Next time Emily flies, I would recommend that she takes a raincoat. I have a favourite scarlet version by Burberry which is at least 30 years old and has flown with me around the world.
The only problem is that when I fly with Virgin, where the crew wear a bright red uniform, people ask me to bring them more peanuts.
Thomas Cook should remember that beautiful young people like Emily, with their golden tans, shorts and T-shirts, parading through arrivals, are a perfect advertisement for its holidays.
So rather than insulting and scolding them, its staff should smile, thank them and say it hopes to see them again.
Not that they are likely to see Emily O’Connor again any time soon.
ESTHER RANTZEN: ‘An attractive young woman in holiday gear with not a piercing or tattoo on view: what’s not to like? I can’t understand why Thomas Cook made such a fuss about Emily O’Connor’s clothes’
CRISTINA ODONE: Ban the holiday exhibitionists
Emily O’Connor looks pretty, young, and feisty. But I suspect she is something else, too. That teensy weensy bikini top is the give-away: Miss O’Connor belongs to the growing band of exhibitionist holidaymakers.
OK, so Thomas Cook was a bit heavy-handed (did it really need four crew members, plus a flight manager, to persuade her to slip on a jacket?!), but I don’t think it was guilty of wicked sexism or ageism. It was simply striking a blow for the rest of us, ordinary passengers, who are fed up with being a captive audience to today’s vacation exhibitionists.
Being sealed in an airborne metal tube with this tribe is agony. From the second they board, they’re taking selfies, posturing for their Instagram feed, issuing foul-mouthed greetings to their friends back home.
Usually well-refreshed, they take on the role of in-flight entertainers, trading quips with fellow passengers and crew members.
They want everyone to know how much they plan to partyyyyyy when they get there.
We have to endure this in silence (there’s nowhere to go) — or risk being attacked and labelled snobs. They dress the part — or undress, in the case of Miss O’Connor. The men, too, with their hairy legs and miles of tattoos.
We’ve seen it all, but, oh, we so didn’t want to!
Finally, here’s someone who says: ‘Enough!’
We, the passengers, are hugely grateful to Thomas Cook for sparing us an embarrassing floor show. If it wants to champion the ordinary flyer, great.
Our requests are modest. No nuts for those who suffer from nut allergies; no aggressive drunks who traumatise the toddlers, as well as everyone else on board; no exhibitionist holidaymakers who want us to look at them.
CRISTINA ODONE: ‘Emily O’Connor looks pretty, young, and feisty. But I suspect she is something else, too. That teensy weensy bikini top is the give-away: Miss O’Connor belongs to the growing band of exhibitionist holidaymakers’
HENRY DEEDES: If you’ve got it, flaunt it
‘Causing offence.’ That was the killer phrase in this ridiculous carry-on. Thomas Cook staff were worried that Emily O’Connor’s cropped top might cause offence to other passengers.
Who were these prune-cheeked puritans so perplexed by a bit of exposed shoulder? No one, apparently. None of Emily’s fellow passengers gave her outfit as much as a second glance. Well, I suspect that’s not strictly true.
Doesn’t Thomas Cook’s stance just encapsulate this barmy, snowflake era in which we live? We’ll let our passengers drink until perpendicular, shout bawdy insults across the aisles and turn a blind eye when couples lock themselves away in the lavs.
But raise a few eyebrows with their choice of clothing? Ohhhh . . . can’t have that.
Look, aeroplanes are hot, horrible places. Dry, stale air turns your nasal passages to corrugated cardboard.
Invariably there’s an overweight passenger spilling over their arm rest into your personal space. Comfortable togs are key.
Whenever I take a flight more than two hours long, I take a pair of pyjama bottoms with me to change into.
As such, Emily looked pretty sensibly dressed to me. And besides, just look at the delightful dear.
As impresario Max Bialystock declares in Mel Brooks’s movie The Producers: ‘When you’ve got it, flaunt it! Flaunt it!’
HENRY DEEDES: ‘Causing offence.’ That was the killer phrase in this ridiculous carry-on. Thomas Cook staff were worried that Emily O’Connor’s cropped top might cause offence to other passengers’
CAROL SARLER: she gives Brits a bad name
Thomas Cook and Emily O’Connor were both wrong. She demonstrated not a shred of dignity by choosing to fly in what looks like her underwear. I’m trying to imagine what she was thinking when she got, uh, ‘dressed’ that morning.
Afraid of being too hot on the plane? In March? Really?
No. The fact is she wanted to be looked at by strangers, and in a sexual way. And by dressing this way she showed a complete lack of self-respect. Worse, she showed no respect, either, for the people of Tenerife, for I’m assuming she must have worn this outfit over there.
Spain is still a very Catholic country and when yet another semi-naked young woman lands on their soil, all it does is reinforce the dim view so many Spanish people already — and, sadly, correctly — have of British tourists.
But Thomas Cook is wrong, too. It is not in the contract between airline and passenger that it should police anyone’s choice of outfit, and nor should it be.
Some of its crew claimed that Miss O’Connor was causing offence to fellow travellers.
If that is really a concern of theirs then, as a very frequent flyer, may I suggest the airline starts by policing the people who really do cause offence, such as those with smelly feet.
Or those who bring airport fast-food with them and eat it 18 in from the noses of their nauseated neighbours.
Yet is there ever even the mildest rebuke from the crew? Never a peep.
CAROL SARLER: ‘Thomas Cook and Emily O’Connor were both wrong. She demonstrated not a shred of dignity by choosing to fly in what looks like her underwear. I’m trying to imagine what she was thinking when she got, uh, ‘dressed’ that morning’
ALEXANDRIA DALE: stop picking on us millennials
Emily is dressed perfectly appropriately for her age and destination. I am 24 and, like her, own a number of similar crop tops, as do my sisters and all of my friends.
They’re seen as totally appropriate for a casual daytime look, or dressed up with a high-waisted skirt and heels for a night out.
I once wore a crop top to work with a sliver of my stomach on show, and no one said anything.
As for the question why do millennials dress like this — well, why shouldn’t we?
Television shows such as Love Island have changed what is deemed appropriate to wear.
For at least one hour every night for eight weeks, many of us watched young men and women spend their days dressed in bikinis and tiny trunks. And they looked good!
Fashionable millennials can also no longer place comfort over style as a travel priority, thanks to social media.
A holiday now starts the second we arrive at the airport, giving rise to the online trend of the ‘airport outfit’, with #airportstyle tagged 171,000 times on Instagram.
As Victoria Beckham tweeted: ‘The airport is my runway.’
Personally, I don’t care that Emily wore a crop top on a plane. What I do care about is the way she was treated. Once again, millennials are attacked by older generations because we’re seen as easy targets.
ALEXANDRIA DALE: ‘Emily is dressed perfectly appropriately for her age and destination. I am 24 and, like her, own a number of similar crop tops, as do my sisters and all of my friends’
RACHEL JOHNSON: her loon pants are far worse!
It’s either a bralet or a ‘summer top’ from Zara, but either way, I don’t find the outfit worn by Emily O’Connor for her trip from Birmingham to Tenerife for some winter sun remotely offensive.
I just find it bonkers in a ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ kind of way instead.
I have often made a study, while transiting British airports, of the clothes we wear either when heading off to or returning from hotter climes.
Even if it is freezing here, you will find us wearing beachwear airside. And on our return to the UK, I can always count a few Brits in shorts and flipflops at baggage reclaim, even though its sub-zero outside.
Emily’s outfit was in this sunny-side-up vein — let’s get this holiday started!
Admittedly, if Emily were my daughter, I might have remarked neutrally that it could be cold on board and she might need another layer, but then again, I might have left it.
Emily — an adult and a trainee accountant, after all — looks lovely in her ‘summer top’ and seems to have recovered sufficiently from her ordeal to mount a noisy social media campaign against the airline.
What is undoubtedly inappropriate is that a young woman was humiliated and made to feel so upset by the actions of the airline crew, and it is right that Thomas Cook has since apologised to her.
The bralet was fine. Even cute. My secret theory is that the airline was really objecting to Emily’s ridiculous orange loon pants. In which case, Thomas Cook has my full support.
RACHEL JOHNSON: ‘It’s either a bralet or a ‘summer top’ from Zara, but either way, I don’t find the outfit worn by Emily O’Connor for her trip from Birmingham to Tenerife for some winter sun remotely offensive’
PAUL CONNOLLY: it’s a mortifying overreaction
There can be few things more embarrassing about being British than our tendency to extreme prudishness.
Emily O’Connor nearly being thrown off a Thomas Cook flight for wearing an ‘inappropriate’ crop top is such a mortifying overreaction you can’t help but wonder whether the whole story has been fabricated.
A woman, in 2019, baring a little (but not a lot of) flesh, is deemed improperly dressed.
The fact it was even commented upon is frankly batty.
The worrying thing is that such prissiness is often the sign of an infantile — or repressive — society, where we have to be protected from bare flesh (but usually only of the female kind), naughty scenes on TV and swearing.
But this flight crew’s silly reaction seems, thankfully, to be an anomaly.
The most heartening episode of this farrago has been the reaction of the media.
The uproar from most of the grown-ups has been robust — the sheer stupidity of the flight staff has been rightly vilified.
I really do hope for the sake of their health, that the flight attendants who threatened to bundle Emily off the flight to Tenerife never go out on the town in a British city centre on a Friday night.
The poor, prissy dears would surely have conniptions.
PAUL CONNOLLY: ‘Emily O’Connor nearly being thrown off a Thomas Cook flight for wearing an ‘inappropriate’ crop top is such a mortifying overreaction you can’t help but wonder whether the whole story has been fabricated’