What’s inappropriate dress for flying?

Recently there have been several articles about passengers made to change clothes or even kicked off flights for “inappropriate dress.” The offenders have been accused of showing too much cleavage, wearing t-shirts with profanity, and sagging pants. Of course, part of the problem is that these standards aren’t written down anywhere visible, are purposefully vague, and are applied unevenly. According to an AP article on the Minnesota Public Radio site, US Airways says that passengers who pose a “threat to the comfort and safety of other passengers or employees” may be denied the right to board, and that it’s “not an issue of dress code, but of disruption.” Which I take to mean is that it’s really only an issue if someone complains.

I’ve seen people who have distracting clothing on flights, including cleavage, profanity, and sagging pants. Do I think those people could show better judgment? Of course. Can airlines ask people to cover up? Sure, I guess. But should they be kicking people off flights? And more, should they be kicking people off of flights simply because another passenger complained about their outfit? (It makes me wonder—why would they draw the line there? Why can’t we complain about people who put on too much cologne, and have them kicked off the plane? Or people who are super rude? But I guess that’s a question for another day.) The guy with the sagging pants was actually arrested for refusing to pull up his pants, which seems like an extreme overreaction.

(Check out CNN’s take on appropriate clothing for travel.)

Readers, what do you think? What’s appropriate and inappropriate attire for flying? Should airlines be able to kick passengers off of flights for what they’re wearing?


  1. that’s pretty ridiculous. unless they’re breaking the law for being nude or violating clearly stated airline rules (no shirt, no shoes, no service), they paid for a ticket like everyone else and should be able to fly.

  2. The issue, as you hint in the article, is much wider and it concerns acceptable standards of behavior (including dress) in public. Freedom is great, but not so great when it causes outrage (eg nudity, except where you expect to see it – on a beach, perhaps) or offence (pants too low, cologne too strong, excessive body odor etc.)

    The problem is that these matters, by their nature, cannot be codified because they rely on a test of what the average person believes, and this test varies over time. Airlines are in the invidious position of having to apply principles in a society where a significant minority are either oblivious to their effect on others, or deliberately set out to offend.

  3. Ah, I recall the days when my mother would put on a suit to fly (and she was a homemaker, not a professional woman.) Heck, she would put on a suit for an 8-hr car ride. And now I see people boarding planes in pajama bottoms, sweats, flip flops, etc. My mother would roll in her grave. However tacky it is, though, I don’t think poor apparel choice rises to the level of getting kicked off a flight. On the other hand, I did see a young kid (elementary school age?) in an airport last week with a t-shirt sporting “I am the bomb.” I could not believe his parents allowed that in an airport. Unbelievably poor taste. I would have supported kicking the entire family out of the airport, or forcing them to buy an overpriced alternative in an airport gift shop.

  4. I sure don’t know the right answer here! In the old days, one could usually avoid the offensive person/gress/odor by quietly asking for a seat change. With today’s load factors, that is rarely an option. One’s personal presentation *in public* and the close quarters of an airplane, demonstrate respect for thy fellow man (or woman). The non-compliant are not just offensive in dress and/or odor, but obviously lack any measure of respect for others. Sometimes the airlines can toss them, but other times it can be tough, very subjective call. The only real way to improve one’s odds is buying up, toward the pointy end of the airplane. Even then, there is no assurance that the offensive persons will not be there as well. I’ve seen folks removed from airplanes more than once; the nearby PAX tend to stand and applaud. At the other end of the scale, the less fortunate (poor is just not the right term) folks often use interstate busses for long trips as they cost less. Been there and done that. In my experience, the riders on busses, regardless of their economic status tend to be clean, adod-free and extremely well behaved, so the the discussion is not about money. In the end, disrespectful and offensive people should be tossed off; the closeness of the seats in coach is just too close to tolerate those with no consideration for others. Sorry to say it, but the same goes for FAT folks who cannot contain themselves within the confines of Their Own Seat. I bought my space and I so not intend to share it. If you need two seats, buy two seats! And YES, the arm rest will remain DOWN. Even if FAT person is clean, polite and properly dressed, the arm rest will remain down. When in public,show consideration and respect for others, but never give up an inch of what you have paid for.

  5. I’ll volunteer to switch seats with the person who is complaining about seeing too much cleavage!

    Seriously, I do have a problem with the guy who wants to put his bare half butt on a seat and I may be the guy who has to sit there after him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.