Let’s talk leggings. Specifically, leggings on airplanes. And reactions to leggings on airplanes. Not since the great “leggings are not pants!” debate have there been so many heated exchanges about leggings.
At this point you may be wondering what the heck I’m talking about, so here is some backstory. This weekend several girls tried to board a United flight to Minneapolis but were turned away because they were wearing leggings. If the story stopped here then any full-on outrage would be completely 100% justified. However, it turns out that these girls (preteen and early teen, according to the New York Times) were “pass travelers’, which means they are employees or family of employees flying for free. This is important because pass travelers have a dress code, and it specifically bans spandex and Lycra leggings, along with ripped or tattered jeans, midriff-baring tops, or flip-flops.
The social media sphere reacted swiftly and brutally. Since the story broke harsh criticism has come from frequent travelers to celebrities and everyone in between. United has held its ground, navigating a fine line between explaining its policies for pass travelers and how they don’t necessarily apply to general passengers.
The initial reasoning given for turning the passengers away was that United reserves the right to decline service to anyone who they deem to be inappropriately dressed. The implication is that it’s possible for anyone wearing leggings to be considered “inappropriately dressed”. The company has since tried to clarify that leggings and yoga pants are acceptable for regular passengers, just not pass travelers. (Although I have to say, as someone who wears yoga pants or leggings for all international flights, it is a bit concerning to know some in the company think it acceptable to decline boarding based based on leggings.)
But actually, this story isn’t about leggings, and here is why. I understand that United has a dress code for its pass travelers, which I concede is their right. The thought is that pass travelers are representing United and need to look respectable. One issue I have is that they are applying rules about adult clothing to children. Kids wear leggings and stretch pants all the time. And honestly, it seems like such an odd place to draw your line in the sand. Is “kids flying in leggings” really the hill that United wants to die on? Especially considering the initial company response that it was a general dress-code violation? Regardless of their right to a dress code, they are not winning many favors with their current response.
I get it. They have a policy and they are sticking to it. But it seems to not be the best PR strategy.
Readers, what are your thoughts about United’s handling of this issue? Should they continue to hold their ground, or take their customers’ views into consideration?
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