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?