March 27, 2017 - 5:59pm
The girls were required to change or put dresses on over their leggings before they were allowed to board
At least two girls wearing leggings have been barred from boarding a United Airlines flight on Sunday because they did not meet a dress code for special pass travellers, the company said in a statement on Twitter amid a social media furore.
According to a series of tweets by another traveller, Shannon Watts, the girls were required to change or put dresses on over their leggings before they were allowed to board their flight from Denver to Minneapolis.
“The passengers this morning were United pass riders who were not in compliance with our dress code policy for company benefit travel,” the airline said on Twitter as the incident went viral on social media.
In another tweet made in response to a question from a social media user, the airline said: “Casual attire for ticketed passengers is fine. The passenger today was a United pass traveller and follow different guidelines.”
United pass travellers are typically company employees or family members of employees.
The policy and United’s defence of it on social media touched a raw nerve for many women and girls who have made leggings a staple in their wardrobes. The popularity of leggings has sparked criticism that they are inappropriate attire in certain circumstances and some schools have barred girls from wearing them to class.
Social media lit up with outrage against the policy and the airline for its response to the initial outcry. Celebrities chimed in with humorous protests.
“I have flown united before with literally no pants on. Just a top as a dress. Next time I will wear only jeans and a top,” model Chrissy Teigen tweeted.
United, the No 3 US airline by passenger traffic, did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.
Watts, the passenger who initially reported the dispute on Twitter, described one of the barred passengers as a 10-year-old girl wearing grey leggings.
Watts said the girls were allowed to board their flight after changing or putting dresses over their leggings.
“This behaviour is sexist and sexualizes young girls,” Watts said on Twitter. “Not to mention that the families were mortified and inconvenienced.”
United Airlines clarifies stance on dress code
United Airlines said the passengers were “pass riders,” who are held at a higher standard.
“The passengers this morning were United pass riders who were not in compliance with our dress code policy for company benefit travel,” the airline said on Twitter.
Airline spokesman Jonathan Guerin said that a pass traveller is someone that flies on standby under employee benefit.
Guerin added that this stricter dress code does not apply to customers who buy tickets as regular passengers.
By evening Saturday, United released a statement explaining the airline’s stance on the issue.
“Let us take a moment to explain today’s news:
We care about the way we present ourselves to you, our customers, as we believe that is part of the experience on board our flights. One of the benefits of working for an airline is that our employees are able to travel the world. Even better, they can extend this privilege to a select number of what we call “pass riders.” These are relatives or friends who also receive the benefit of free or heavily discounted air travel – on our airline as well as on airlines around the world where we have mutual agreements in place for employees and pass riders.
When taking advantage of this benefit, all employees and pass riders are considered representatives of United. And like most companies, we have a dress code that we ask employees and pass riders to follow. The passengers this morning were United pass riders and not in compliance with our dress code for company benefit travel. We regularly remind our employees that when they place a family member or friend on a flight for free as a standby passenger, they need to follow our dress code.
To our regular customers, your leggings are welcome.”