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Was United Airlines Out Of Line For Denying Girls In Leggings To Board?

The Uproar Is Much Bigger Than United Airlines Wanted

United Airlines is having a difficult time defending their stance on denying two 10-year-old girls to board a flight because of the leggings they were wearing. The two girls were United pass riders, meaning they are related to or friends of an United employee and enjoying the employee’s same benefits.

Twitter exploded when Moms Demand Action founder, Shannon Watts, tweeted the whole incident and now a debate has formed: was United Airlines out of line for denying these girls to board the flight? Or were they simply enforcing rules that have been in place for pass riders?

Let’s break it down, United Airlines has strict rules when it comes to pass rider dress code, as expected since pass riders are representing those that work for the company. According to Fly Zed, the dress code rules look something like this for pass riders:

Dress code

  • Pass riders’ overall appearance should be well-groomed, neat, clean and in good taste.
  • Attire should be respectful of fellow revenue passengers, employees and pass riders.
  • Pass riders may wear denim attire (such as jeans), shorts that are no more than three inches above the knee and athletic shoes when traveling in Coach or Business cabin.

The following attire is unacceptable in any cabin but is not limited to:

  • Any attire that reveals a midriff.
  • Attire that reveals any type of undergarments.
  • Attire that is designated as sleepwear, underwear, or swim attire.
  • Mini Skirts
  • Shorts that do not meet 3 inches above the knee when in a standing position.
  • Form-fitting lycra/spandex tops, pants and dresses.
  • Attire that has offensive and/or derogatory terminology or graphics.
  • Attire that is excessively dirty or has holes/tears.
  • Any attire that is provocative, inappropriately revealing, or see-through clothing.
  • Bare feet
  • Beach-type, rubber flip-flops


United Airlines also addressed the debate this morning with the release of this statement:

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.

And United is not alone. News Talk Florida reached out to Southwest Airlines to ask about their pass rider dress code rules.

Our Employee Travel Privilege Policy does require Employees and guests of Employees to present a clean, well-groomed and tasteful appearance. Southwest Airlines does not have a Customer dress code.
Ms. Thais Hanson
Spokesperson |  Southwest Airlines

It seems most airlines require a certain appearance when it comes to their employees and those in connection to their employees. Of course Twitter users had their own opinions on the matter though and it seemed Watts helped fuel some of the debate.

Many came to the girls defense arguing leggings on 10-year-olds were not provocative or inappropriate while others simply called the uproar from this incident ridiculous.

Regardless, United simply followed the rules that were set forth for pass riders despite of the age of the passenger.

Has Dress Code Become An Issue On Flights?

This isn’t the first time an airline has been in the center of a debate due to dress code. Back in January of 2017 a woman was supposedly kicked off a Spirit Airline flight due to “too much cleavage.”

The Florida woman, Brenda, told ABC Miami, “It’s not even about money. I was really embarrassed.”

However, a spokesman for Spirit said otherwise.

Photo: Local 10 News

“Nobody was taken off a plane because of cleavage,” Spirit spokesman Paul Berry said to Local 10 News. “People are taken off of planes because of their behavior.”

Apparently the flight attendant had spoken to Brenda about her intoxicated behavior.

“The flight attendant made that decision, and as she was leaving, she said, ‘By the way, you might want to cover up.’ It was more of a personal statement to her,” Berry said to Local 10 News.