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