Yes, United Airlines has a dress code for pass holders. Yes, it's also sexist.

Yes, United Airlines has a dress code for pass holders. Yes, it's also sexist.
Source: AP
Source: AP

Let's call this whole ordeal #LeggingsGate. 

On Saturday, Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, tweeted that two girls had been barred from boarding their United Airlines flight from Denver to Minneapolis. The reason? They were wearing leggings.

Right then and there, they were asked to change into something more appropriate. 

"We heard the gate agent say, 'I don't make the rules, I just enforce them,'" Watts said in an email to Mic. "We asked the family what was going on. They said their daughter's leggings (gray, not too tight) were deemed inappropriate. They told us two other girls were turned away and not allowed to board because they didn't have any other clothing. The girl — who looked 10 or 11 — had a dress from trip to Hawaii in her backpack and put that on over her leggings and was allowed to board." 

Of course, as all this information rolled out on Twitter, all hell broke loose. 

When United first tweeted back at Watts and other concerned citizens, it didn't make it any better, with them stating that they do indeed have the right to refuse customers who don't abide by their dress code

Can women not fly a United flight with leggings anymore? Is there suddenly a dress code we should all be made aware of? 

There was also the fact that while these two girls were barred from their flight, their father, who was allowed to board, was wearing shorts, presumably an equally casual garment.

"The girl pulled a dress on," Watts told the New York Times. "But please keep in mind that the dad had on shorts that did not hit his knee — they stopped maybe two or three inches above his knee — and there was no issue with that." 

That's when the "This is sexist and wrong" alarms went off in full force. 

Amid all this confusion, celebrities rushed to weigh in, with some celebrities, like Sarah Silverman, reaching out to United on Twitter. 

Now, rest assured, everyone, you can absolutely wear leggings on a United flight as a passenger. 

The rules come in, according to United, when a customer is flying on company benefit travel, meaning that they're flying on a pass that's afforded to United employees and eligible dependents that makes flying very, very cheap or free on a stand-by basis.

"The policy involves guidelines that have existed for years and years," Jonathan Guerin, a spokesperson for United, said in an interview with Mic. "They're reviewed regularly and updated as they need to be. They exist for a couple of reasons. When you are an employee, we have this privilege of seeing the world and being able to hop on a plane and go anywhere in our network pretty much for free. Part of that privilege is also that we can bring our family and friends. Onboard, they're representing United."

But is this dress code still sexist? Yes. 

Now, whether or not United wants to have a dress code for their employees is their right, of course. But people are understandably upset because of the different standards for men and women (no matter their age) in that dress code. 

"I have five kids: Four of them are women," Watts told Mic. "They wear yoga pants all of the time when flying. As a Premiere United flier, I think this policy is arbitrary and sexist. It singles out women for their clothing and sexualizes little girls." 

In the end, the two young women were barred for their leggings, but were reportedly let onto the next flight to Minneapolis after they had changed. Meanwhile, their father was allowed to board their original flight wearing shorts.

"For this particular incident, our gate agent only worked with these two women," Guerin said. "These two girls were not dressed appropriately. They did not meet those guidelines and so we told them that they could not board with them. When they were told this, there was no uproar. They totally understood." 

Despite United's own defense of their actions, the United dress code remains strikingly similar to the dress codes young people have recently been calling out themselves in schools, where far more attention is being paid to what the young women are wearing than the young men.

Since the story broke, United has been in a back and forth with Twitter users who are upset about this whole ordeal — and these rules — with plenty already planning on wearing yoga pants next time they fly as a sign of solidarity. 

Luckily for them though, United insists that that's totally fine. The guidelines, which Guerin said are constantly reviewed, only apply to pass riders and United employees, so if you're paying for a flight, you can wear whatever you want. 

"For people who are concerned, I would say don't worry," Guerin said. "These are rules that apply internally. These are rules that apply to our employees and our pass riders. Come as you are, come in your leggings."

But still, the issue is not that there is a dress code for pass holders. It's the rules within that dress code, and who, exactly, is monitored the most. 

March 27, 2017, 3:17 p.m.: This post has been updated. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Rachel Lubitz

Rachel is a senior Style writer at Mic. She previously worked for The Washington Post's Style section for more than three years. Feel free to contact her at rachel@mic.com.

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