United Airlines have caused controversy this week by banning two girls from boarding a flight due to their choice to wear leggings. Some have accused the airline of sexism over the incident.
A group on the flight from Denver, Colorado to Minneapolis, Minnesota were apparently flying on the “United pass”- tickets for employees and their families. However, they fell foul of a dress code which the airline imposes on those flying on the ‘pass’.
As well as asking United pass flyers to avoid “form-fitting lycra”, the dress code also stipulates against mini-skirts and flip-flops.
But activist Shannon Watts said at least one of the girls in question was around 10 years old, and the girls could only board “after being forced to change or put dresses on over the top of their clothing”.
2) She’s forcing them to change or put dresses on over leggings or they can’t board. Since when does
united</a> police women's clothing?</p>— Shannon Watts (shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017
A 10-year-old girl in gray leggings. She looked normal and appropriate. Apparently
united</a> is policing the clothing of women and girls. <a href="https://t.co/RKsIFoE8pq">https://t.co/RKsIFoE8pq</a></p>— Shannon Watts (shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017
Although United Airlines attempted to explain the decision as down to the dress code enforced for those using the pass system, some still had questions for the company.
— Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) March 26, 2017
united</a> Dear <a href="https://twitter.com/united">United social team: can you post link to your dress code for “pass riders” so we can all see if it’s fair to both genders?
Many argued that the airline’s actions were sexist. Watts pointed out that the girls’ father was not stopped from boarding the flight, despite his apparent breach of the guidelines.
4) Their father, who was allowed to board with no issue, was wearing shorts.— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017
— Nick Bolton (@NickBolton13) March 26, 2017
united</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/PattyArquette">PattyArquette Friendly Advice, United: No one is nearly as offended by a little girl in spandex as they are by this situation.
Actor Patricia Arquette tweeted the company, criticising their decision.
Another actor William Shatner, Star Trek’s original Captain Kirk, posted a picture of himself (in character) in leggings to show that some men do wear the garments usually seen as women’s clothing.
United Airlines responded in a statement titled “To our customers… your leggings are welcome!”.
To our customers…your leggings are welcome! Learn more about our company’s pass travel privilege: https://t.co/5e3euG1H9G.— United (@united) March 27, 2017
The company clarified that those “pass riders”, taking advantage of employee benefits are “considered representatives of United”, and are therefore are asked to comply with a dress code.
The statement did not address the age of the girls stopped, whether or not their father was indeed wearing shorts, and if that would be allowed.