A JetBlue employee in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. is under fire after dressing up as a homeless Puerto Rican displaced by Hurricane María for Halloween.
In a tweet posted on Thursday, an unidentified worker for the airline is seen standing at the JetBlue terminal at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in a stained white t-shirt, ripped pants, missing teeth and black makeup running from her eyes holding a cup for change and a sign around her neck that reads: “Homeless. Need help trying to get back to Puerto Rico or Cuba.”
“This was the costume of a JetBlue employee at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, FL,” a Twitter user who goes by the handle @nats, wrote in Spanish. “I want to read your opinions.”
Since then, Puerto Ricans, who believe the costume mocks the influx of islanders who fled to Florida following the devastating Hurricane María, which left thousands of families homeless, have been slamming the employee.
“A @JetBlue employee in the Fort Lauderdale airport showed up to work in this racist and highly offensive ‘costume.’ People’s hardships and suffering should not be mocked like this,” wrote one Twitter user. “The company should have accountability for all their workers. Unacceptable!”
Another user added: “Not sure if they know but thousands of people lost everything due to Hurricane Maria and for this JetBlue employee to think it’s OK to joke about the epidemic of homelessness in Puerto Rico and the U.S. is sickening and completely unacceptable.”
Many others have tweeted JetBlue that they would not fly with the airline unless they apologize or discharge the woman.
Over the weekend, a JetBlue representative did issue a statement and apology.
“In the spirit of Halloween, our crew members are welcome to celebrate in costume, but one crew member chose a costume that was clearly insensitive and not in line with our costume policy,” Derek Dombrowski, manager of corporate communications, told NBC News. “The situation was immediately addressed, and we apologize to anyone who was offended.”
He continued: “any costume that could be offensive to staff and customers is not allowed.”
When the news outlet asked how the employee was “immediately addressed,” the airline declined to comment.
JetBlue, which is the largest airline carrier in Puerto Rico, has more than 50 departure flights from San Juan, the Caribbean archipelago’s capital, daily. Among its primary destinations are Florida cities like Orlando, Miami and Fort. Lauderdale.
After the category 4 storm, which was the deadliest natural disaster in modern U.S. history, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans arrived in the Sunshine State, many of them displaced and finding another housing crisis in Florida cities.
In a tweet, CBS reporter David Begnaud said that the employee, who hasn’t been named but is reportedly Puerto Rican, added “Cuba” to her costume sign because she was standing in the departures line for the Caribbean country.
He added that the woman thought the costume would be funny but now understands that it’s not and regrets it.