United Airlines came under fire Sunday after two teenage girls were barred by a gate attendant from boarding a flight from Denver to Minneapolis because they were wearing leggings.
The girls, whose ages were not specified, were not allowed onto the morning flight because they were traveling under an employee travel pass. It includes a specific dress code, airline spokesman Jonathan Guerin said.
That dress code bars pass travelers from wearing spandex or lycra pants such as leggings. Guerin says the teenagers agreed to change their clothing and take a later flight. Guerin says ticketed passengers are not subject to the same dress code and can wear leggings.
United did not immediately respond to a phone call or email with questions. The airline’s Twitter account, however, responded directly to Watts, saying: “The passengers this morning were United pass riders who were not in compliance with our dress code policy for company benefit travel.
“In our contract of carriage, rule 21, we do have the right to refuse transport for passengers. This is left to the discretion of the gate agents.”
“There is a dress code for pass travelers as they are representing UA when they fly,” United wrote. “Casual attire is allowed as long as it looks neat and is in good taste for the local environment.”
The company’s passenger contract says that it can bar people who are “barefoot or not properly clothed”. It does not elaborate on that description.
Watts said that the company’s behavior was “sexist and sexualizes young girls. Not to mention that the families were mortified and inconveni nced”. She added: “Their father, who was allowed to board with no issue, was wearing shorts.”
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 scarf,” model Chrissy Teigen tweeted.