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Royal Navy Engineer Told To Remove Uniform On Virgin Flight

Royal Navy engineer told to remove uniform on Virgin flight

A Royal Navy engineer was told to her remove her uniform before boarding a Virgin Atlantic flight out of Heathrow Airport.

Petty Officer Nicky Howse, a helicopter technician, was on a three-month deployment in the United States when she was given a compassionate release to attend her grandfather’s funeral back home. A week prior to the incident, she wore her uniform without any problems to a Virgin Atlantic flight to Britain.

But on Monday, while she was waiting at Heathrow to board a flight to Los Angeles, a G4S security guard and Virgin employees told her she would have to remove her uniform before boarding the jet. The staff wrongly informed Howse that it was company policy not to allow military personnel to travel in uniform.

“It was horrific. I was made to feel uncomfortable in my own country for wearing the uniform I wear to defend the place,” Howse said in an email to a friend. “It made me ashamed of my country that a British serviceman can’t travel in uniform. I was so distressed.”

Howse said the trouble began at check-in when a security officer was rude to her when he asked about her traveling in uniform. He wouldn’t let the check-in attendant give her her passport, she said.

“I was shaking with rage. I thought it was all done,” Howse continued. “But when I got to the departure gate I was taken to the side by the flight supervisor and they said I wasn’t allowed to fly in uniform and had to wear a sleep suit.”

Howse said she felt humiliated with the other passengers staring at her. She was told that the airline doesn’t only fly British passengers and her uniform might be viewed as a threat.

“I went ballistic,” she recalled. “I said ‘In the country I defend I can’t wear my uniform?'”

Nicky Howse told to remove uniform before boarding flight

Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group — which includes Virgin Atlantic — tweeted Saturday:

Airlines take perceived threats very seriously, even when it comes to a seemingly innocuous piece of clothing. In January, a passenger wearing a Princess Bride t-shirt was told to remove it because it had an inappropriate quote that was scaring other passengers. The quote read, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Flight attendants asked the passenger, Wynard Mullins, to remove the shirt, but he didn’t have another shirt to wear. The flight attendant said she would find him something else, but the issue wasn’t brought up again.

Do you think Nicky Howse should have been told to change her uniform?

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28 Responses to “Royal Navy Engineer Told To Remove Uniform On Virgin Flight”

  1. Bret M Duff

    Oh hell no! Good for her for standing up for herself and her country. I would hope the security guard who told her and the flight attendant that she couldn't wear her uniform – get severely reprimanded.

    But good on Richard Branson for taking note of the problem. Hope he goes the extra mile and reaches out to the Petty Officer makes it right for her.

  2. Linda McDonald

    At one point in time our service people were required to fly in uniform if on duty or not. It's pretty sad when civilians are afraid to see their military counterparts board a plane in uniform. It makes me feel good! But then, 22 years a military spouse.

  3. Fred Quiman

    He'll no! How stupid can you be Virgin or no Virgin you owe a apology to the young lady and to every American that has ever wore the USA uniform. What a terrible thing!

  4. Frank Imperiali


  5. Allan Hill

    I hope all those involved in this disrespect to one of our service personnel have lost their jobs!

  6. Cynthia Cedergren

    I am happy to see Richard Branson apologize on behalf of his Company. It is more in keeping with how I've perceived his character. I am dreadfully tired of stupid TSA people singling out innocents to avoid profiling those they should ACTUALLY be profiling. No one would dare ask Muslim woman to remove her face covering, but a Soldier is told to remove her uniform? Preposterous.

  7. Joshua Kidd

    Considering it was an airport staff member who told the airline staff this, it shouldn't be blamed on Virgin. Virgin is an amazing company and not once have I heard of something like this from them. That "Disgusting Mr. Branson" Apologized to her and the entire world for this mistake. Y'all need to learn how to read and know who to blame here. Most company CEOs would not do such a thing, it might be a person within the company who handles all that stuff who would do that.

  8. Anonymous

    And yet they allow Moslem women to wear Burkas without any problems

  9. Nancy Moat

    No, she should allowed to wear her uniform at any time and anywhere she wants.

  10. Michael Scott Henry Trask

    Not no but HELL NO. No servicemember should be made to feel shame for their sevice.

  11. Andrew Davis

    Of sheep, wolf, and sheepdog… The sheep are afraid of the wolf and require the protection of the sheepdog, but since the sheepdog looks like the wolf, the sheep get scared of them too when no wolf is present…

  12. Ed Bukont

    I don't see that as a threat. I see it as enhanced security. Those in plain clothes with a threat In their shoes or shorts will probably think before they act, and if they do act, they may get interrupted. I have worked around service personnel most of my life and never felt threatened.

  13. Tom Ramage

    Away and stop taking pish it was an over zealous security officer who is probably a weekend warrior or even worse a walt with attitude

  14. Tom Ramage

    she's not a US Vet she's a serving British Navy Petty Officer even better that your not gonna fly virgin try united instead

  15. Alan Lindoe

    Joshua Kidd but most ceo's would not have said anything if they could get away with it

  16. Alan Lindoe

    Joshua Kidd but most ceo's would not have said anything if they could get away with it

  17. Mandy Taylor

    Well I aint travelled with Virgin since 1988 and never will! It was the worst treatment I had ever had from an airline. They should be proud to have the officer on board. Good for her well done for sticking up for herself.

  18. Marc Robson

    G4S once again prove that they are buffoons in advising virgin crew in the 1 St place

  19. Guy Dimmock

    Apparently we have a Military Covenant that's supposed to stop this kind of behaviour. That only works if business signs up as well as communities.

  20. Daniel Luckham

    I dont think she should have been asked to remove her uniform, although i dont undertabd why she would want to wear it on a flight unless she was working.

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