Home Blog Posts LeggingsGate – Girls Denied Flight Due to United Airlines Buddy Pass Dress Code

LeggingsGate – Girls Denied Flight Due to United Airlines Buddy Pass Dress Code

written by familyadhd

This is an opinion piece and all statements made below reflect our opinions only.

Flying Over Rocky Mountains

Many of you have probably heard by now of the unfortunate situation that blew up online on March 26, which centered around a trendy article of clothing beloved by tweens, teens and moms across the U.S.—leggings.

It all started when (what we assume was) a well-meaning onlooker tweeted about their shock after some individuals were denied entry onto a United flight due to the clothes they were wearing. The clothes in question? Leggings.

Of course, the internet was quick to respond with indignation and at face-value I can completely understand why!

While judging anyone’s clothing can open a large can of worms, certain businesses reserve the right to do so whether we like it or not. The initial judgment seemed sexist or ridiculous on the surface, but there was more to the story that gradually came to light.

I’ll be the first to admit that when I saw the initial headlines blasted across social media I had a moment of panic wondering what the heck I’d wear on our future flights because I, like many Americans, love a good pair of leggings while flying. They’re comfortable, they’re cozy yet not too hot, they provide great range of motion … I’m definitely a fan of these trouble-causing pants!

We held back judgment until the full story emerged later that day and I’m glad we did!

The long and short of it was that the girls who were denied the ability to board were flying on buddy passes, which are basically friends and family passes given to those related to or friends with airline employees. They fly for a deep discount (or free) and the trade-off is that they’re subject to the same standards airline employees are while flying, which includes a dress code.

This fire could have quickly been put out, but instead it was amplified by United’s initial response to the situation in which they apparently recited their policy stating they maintain the right to deny someone boarding at their discretion if they feel their dress is inappropriate. I believe they may have even likened the leggings to spandex (which are apparently a no-go). It seems some wires were initially crossed and whoever was responsible for tweeting on United account that day didn’t know that the girls in question were flying on buddy passes. This simply fanned an already blazing fire!

United later took to twitter to address the fact the girls were flying on buddy passes and that was why they were stopped for their choice in bottoms, but by that time media sources online had already run like crazy with the story.

United has since made it clear on twitter that they will not just allow you to board while wearing leggings, but that they welcome your leggings as you can see in their tweet here:

United Airlines Allows Leggings on Flights

Screenshot taken from United’s twitter account

I’m not sure whether or not this calmed the frenzy of legging-wearers ready to book with competitors, but at least they made it clear that you will not be denied your flight simply for wearing your favorite, cozy leggings. Thank goodness!

Flying on a Buddy Pass – Thoughts from the Sibling of a Pilot

We have a friend with a sibling that’s a pilot (not with United) and we discussed this incident as it unfolded. Her opinion was that it’s common knowledge that if you take advantage of a buddy pass that you must adhere to the dress code, but that it’s a small price to pay for such a deeply discounted flight. She mentioned that sometimes the boarding agent will be a little more lenient and allow things to slide, while others are very by-the-book. She’s flown on a buddy pass for years and while a tiny inconvenience at times to be so cautious that she maintains the dress code, she doesn’t have an issue with it.

Our Thoughts on the Situation

Whether these girls knew about the dress code or not, it seems the internet had a lot to say about it!

So what are our thoughts as frequent flyers on the matter?

I think that flights are expensive (though less expensive if you use our tricks for finding cheap flights!) and were the girls regular customers wearing your average pairs of leggings I’d find it ridiculous if they weren’t allowed to board a flight they’d paid for solely for that reason. However, given the circumstances of the girls’ tickets, I can see why the United agent stopped them based on their buddy pass dress code policy. I can also see why the internet got their leggings in a twist before the full story out. That one little fact makes quite the difference!

The original twitter poster seemed to be well-meaning from everything we’ve read and simply shared his/her indignation at what they thought they were witnessing. Unfortunately, there was more to the story.

In the end we personally chock it up to a misunderstanding and a game of telephone.

Should the girls have looked into the requirements of using the buddy pass if they didn’t know? Sure.

Should United have made sure they understood why the girls were actually refused boarding before addressing the situation publicly? Yep.

Was it right for the original twitter poster to say something? Honestly, we can see why he/she did given how the situation appeared, however, what it looked like wasn’t quite what it was. We’re big fans of standing up for those that are being mistreated, but given that the original poster didn’t have all the facts it caused a little bit of a stir. Where do you draw the line? We don’t know!

In the end, it’s a great cautionary tale regarding how careful both individuals and brands have to be when it comes to posting on social media! It’s always best to double-check before you hit that button.

We haven’t read whether or not the girls were able to change and make another flight, but hopefully they were able to get to wherever they were headed!


Do you think those flying on buddy passes should be subject to the same dress code requirements as employees flying with their own airlines? Do you think United handled the situation appropriately once the story got out?

Please keep comments respectful of those involved as well as other posters. 😉

All statements made above are opinions only and are not meant to affect any of the businesses discussed. 

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Jeanette March 30, 2017 at 9:31 am

I think it’s kind of silly that they could not wear leggings because right now they’re extremely popular and they do cover up stuff. I have seen much of her stuff out there than leggings. If it is a rule for buddy passes then yes they should’ve followed it. When we go to our jobs there are definitely things that we should and should not wear and I think United was just following their own rules.

familyadhd March 30, 2017 at 6:19 pm

I’m a fan of leggings in general! I agree on the United rules bit, too 😉

robin Rue March 30, 2017 at 10:25 am

I had no idea that leggings were against the dress code. I always wear them when I fly because I like to be comfortable. I am glad I was never caught or kicked off.

familyadhd March 30, 2017 at 6:20 pm

It’s only a rule for those flying on a friends and family pass 😉 It isn’t a general rule for all flyers–thank goodness!

candy March 30, 2017 at 10:38 am

Yes they cover up stuff but it also outlines stuff that shouldn’t be outlines. Wear a shirt long enough to cover everything please. If airline has dress code about buddy passes follow the rules. Why do people not want to follow rules.

familyadhd March 30, 2017 at 6:20 pm

Lol people seem to have very strong feelings about leggings!

Katie Kinsley March 30, 2017 at 11:07 am

It’s amazing that things get blown out of proportion so quickly. I side with the airline because buddy passes are people who represent the company too.

familyadhd March 30, 2017 at 6:21 pm

Yes, it just goes to show how quickly the media and social networks can take a small matter and blow them up! Sadly, some of the legitimate bigger issues don’t see the light of day … hmmmm 😉

lisa March 30, 2017 at 12:23 pm

I love my leggings. I even dress them up for church. But I do see that if it is a policy for using the “buddy passes” that they do need to adhere to the guidelines. But I see both sides of the argument.

familyadhd March 30, 2017 at 6:22 pm

I’m with you! I totally see how everyone could have handled things a bit differently and how nobody here was a villain. Life is a bit more complicated than that 😉

Christy Maurer March 30, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Hey, if I’m getting free flights, I’ll wear whatever they tell me to lol. I think the girls should have known ahead of time, so they shouldn’t have blown this out of proportion. It is a buddy pass rule…follow it. Then again, no one thinks the rules apply to them anymore!

familyadhd March 30, 2017 at 6:23 pm

I’m not sure the girls were ever actually involved in this being blow so far out of proportion, it seemed that the internet took it upon itself to do that on its own 😉 I agree with you though, if someone wants to give us free flights we’ll wear what you want!

Claudia Krusch March 30, 2017 at 8:19 pm

I heard about this story on the radio. I thought it was silly that they were not allowed on the plane. They were traveling as representatives of the company and the dress code should have been explained to them.

Pam March 30, 2017 at 9:55 pm

I actually hadn’t really heard about this story. I had no idea that buddy passes had rules and dress codes like this.

Jacqui S March 30, 2017 at 10:43 pm

I love my leggings! But, I do understand United’s stance. If it’s against dress code, and they are flying on a pass? They should follow the rules. No matter how ridiculous that no leggings rule is. I don’t agree with the rule, but…

Annemarie LeBlanc March 31, 2017 at 12:52 am

I think the only lapse here (for both parties) is communication. If the rules were properly set and information has been disseminated then there would not have been a situation like this.

Kiwi March 31, 2017 at 3:45 am

Untied is really dropping the ball on this one. EVERYONE wears leggings on the plane its comfy! This is just bad publicity for them, TSA rules already makes flying difficult we dont need silly rules like this making it more of a hassle.

Rebecca Swenor March 31, 2017 at 5:56 am

I do believe they should have looked at the rules for flying with the buddy pass. United in my opinion did handle the sidduation in a good manner after the incident got out. If you are going to use a buddy pass than you should have to abide by the rules the employees do I believe because you are representing the company. Thanks for sharing the information.

Nikka Shae March 31, 2017 at 10:15 am

I used to fly with Contentail now United back in the day and we had to always dress up if you flying standby. Rules are the rules.

Tamara Bowman March 31, 2017 at 4:37 pm

I can definitely understand why they were denied getting on the plane. Following guidelines is important especially when you’re getting free or extremely discounted airfare.

Paula Bendfeldt April 1, 2017 at 5:03 pm

This is an interesting situation. I think that specially if you are on a buddy pass you need to follow the guidelines. I think that people online are too quick to jump to conclusions.

Mimi Green April 3, 2017 at 2:11 pm

If you want to wear what you want to wear then you need to pay full rate for your ticket. Simple as that, a buddy pass is a privilege, it is not a right. There is no secret that a buddy pass comes with rules.


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