United Airlines denied girls the right to fly because they were wearing spandex leggings. Time to break out the pitchforks and cry sexist, right?
Wait, hold up.
When the news broke, I, too, cried bullshit over denying someone the right to fly because of what they wore. Especially over something like leggings. Oh mer gerd, what century are we living in? Sexualizing and policing the bodies of 10 year old girls.
But it soon came out that because of the sensational aspect of the story, only half of the story was being told - the ones that would get us to cry out in rage and publicly denounce United Airlines. There's a very VERY important tidbit that was missing from this story.
This is not a dress code that is being applied to 10 year old girls everywhere. Those girls were traveling as pass travelers.
What's a pass traveler, you might ask? A pass traveler is a dependent or relative of an employee of United Airlines. They fly with a huge discount (or sometimes even for free), they are considered representatives of the airline, AND as such, they are subject to following employee rules.
Guess what's included in those rules?
If you guessed a dress code, you get a gold star.
United Airlines released a statement that protest leggings being worn by fliers was a protest in vain after people started tweeting the airline that they'd be wearing yoga pants:
We care about the way we present ourselves to you, our customers, as we believe that is part of the experience on board our flights. One of the benefits of working for an airline is that our employees are able to travel the world. Even better, they can extend this privilege to a select number of what we call “pass riders.” These are relatives or friends who also receive the benefit of free or heavily discounted air travel – on our airline as well as on airlines around the world where we have mutual agreements in place for employees and pass riders.
When taking advantage of this benefit, all employees and pass riders are considered representatives of United. And like most companies, we have a dress code that we ask employees and pass riders to follow. The passengers this morning were United pass riders and not in compliance with our dress code for company benefit travel. We regularly remind our employees that when they place a family member or friend on a flight for free as a standby passenger, they need to follow our dress code.
To our regular customers, your leggings are welcome.
Now, does that get United Airlines off the hook? Well. The parent in me does argue that forcing kids to follow a dress code does still smack the teeniest of antequated and uptight BS. BUT, at the same time, rules are rules. I've worked many places that have friends and family benefits, and the I don't necessarily have to like the rules that come with the benefits, but if I want to enjoy them, I feel like I am the one who should suck it up a little. Not the company, who is technically not obligated to offer me those perks at all. And to be honest, I don't see a whole lot of difference between this and attending a company family event. Unless I knew that ultra casual was going to be okay, I'd be putting my son in a polo shirt.
If it means I can fly my family for free, and all I have to do is make sure I am dressed business/school picture day casual? Yeah I will suck it up and wear my comfy stretchy jeans instead of leggings - and ditto for kids.
Hell, I'll even put on makeup. Have you seen the cost of airfare these days?
I'm sorry those girls were a little bit embarrassed - and probably humiliated even more so now that a third party who didn't know all the details got involved, blowing this up into a huge viral outrage. But they weren't denied the right to fly or kicked off the airplane. They were asked to comply with the dress code as representatives of the airline. Outdated dresscode or no, United Airlines was within its rights to ask people to comply, and they're not responsible for the failure of the parents to dress everyone accordingly.
Time to put down the pitchfork.