United Airlines is facing serious scrutiny after not allowing two female passengers to board because they were wearing leggings. The issue has gained an immense amount of attention on social media platforms, with people calling the incident “extremely sexist” and “offensive.” What many people didn’t realize was that the girls restricted from the flight were traveling using a company travel pass, meaning that they have to follow an employee dress code. The critiques of the incident seemed to only read the headlines, and the passenger, Shannon Watts, who was live tweeting during the incident, was unaware that the girls were flying under special circumstances. Shannon Watts’ first impressions influenced the mass opinion, barely giving United a chance to respond. United did defend their actions, stating that “[w]hen 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.”
I’ve had an interesting perspective on the incident because I was held to those pass rider standards growing up. My father was the Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of United Airlines for thirteen years, so I had to make sure I followed the dress code. I was never penalized for what I wore, but my family and I always knew not to wear leggings, jeans, or anything too casual on a flight. It was inconvenient at times, but we were lucky to have these flying benefits in the first place. The dress code is not sexist at all, as both men and women using benefits are obligated to meet its standards. Leggings for women are casual, just as sweatpants might be for men, therefore they are prohibited. These girls and my family were representing the company. The dress code comes with using these special privileges is a matter of upholding a professional appearance, not a matter of limiting personal expression.