Airline defends decision to ban girls from a flight for wearing leggings after accusations of sexism

United Airlines has been accused of sexism after banning girls wearing leggings from a flight [Photo: Josh Sorenson via Pexels]
United Airlines has been accused of sexism after banning girls wearing leggings from a flight [Photo: Josh Sorenson via Pexels]

Twitter got itself all hot and bothered over the weekend. The cause of the outrage was an incident that took place at Denver airport when two girls were reportedly banned from boarding a United Airlines plane because they were wearing leggings.

A third girl who was wearing grey leggings had to change before she was allowed to board the flight to Minneapolis.

Shannon Watts, who witnessed the incident, took to Twitter to document what was happening at the departure gate.

“A @united gate agent isn’t letting girls in leggings get on flight from Denver to Minneapolis because spandex is not allowed?,” Shannon wrote.

“She’s forcing them to change or put dresses on over leggings or they can’t board. Since when does @united police women’s clothing?”

She went on to add that the staff member at the gate insisted she did not set the rules but was merely enforcing them.

Unsurprisingly, social media blew up following the tweets, with many users calling the airline out for sexism and policing women’s clothing in an apparent dress code.

Even Chrissy Teigen was outraged and made her own views on the story clear by sharing her own experiences of flying with the airline.

“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,” she wrote.

But turns out there’s a little more to the story than first thought. Responding to the criticism, the airline explained that the girls had been travelling on standby as relatives of employees, which meant they were representing United and subject to a stricter dress code than applied to other passengers.

“We appreciate you being our eyes and ears. The customers this morning were United pass travellers,” a representative for United Airlines wrote in response to Shannon Watts’ tweets.

“There is a dress code for pass travellers as they are representing UA when they fly.”

But the response wasn’t enough to satisfy Ms Watts and other users who believed the policy was sexist and said it risked “sexualising” young girls.

“As the mother of 4 daughters who live and travel in yoga pants, I’d like to know how many boys @United has penalised for the same reason,” she wrote.

Some of Shannon Watts' tweets about the incident [Photo: Twitter/@shannonrwatts]
Some of Shannon Watts’ tweets about the incident [Photo: Twitter/@shannonrwatts]

United airlines has since published a statement on its website to explain the “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,” the statement reads.

“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,” the statement continues.

“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 airline has been accused of policing women's clothing [Photo: Unsplash via Pexels]
The airline has been accused of policing women’s clothing [Photo: Unsplash via Pexels]

The statement says that the passengers were United pass riders and were “not in compliance with our dress code for company benefit travel.”

It went on to point out that employees are reminded that when a friend or family member is placed on a flight for free as a standby passenger, they need to follow the dress code.

“To our regular customers, your leggings are welcome,” the statement concluded.

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