US Airways Lawsuit: Brothers Told They Needed to Change Clothes For First Class

If a person is deemed too sick, too smelly, too drunk, or could otherwise be a threat to fellow passengers, they may not be allowed to board their flight until they meet the airline's standards. But a recent case highlights how far some airlines — well, one in particular — take these regulations. As evidenced by a recent US Airways incident, traveling while black is considered a dangerous practice.

According to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday, two black passengers were stopped by a ticket counter employee who told them that they had to change into more appropriate attire to board their first class flight. The airline claimed the men were violating the airline's first class dress code by wearing jeans, hoodies, and baseball caps, and instructed them to change into slacks and button-up shirts. But guess what? No such dress code exists.

The two then approached a white passenger in similar attire and warned him he might be required to change. But evidently he was told his hoodie and jeans were fine, because when the two men were finally allowed to board after changing their clothes, they saw this man sitting in first class in his original clothing.

A spokesperson for the airline said they had received the complaint, but offered no further information.

If you thought this was US Airways' first offense, you'd be wrong. Another case involving this airline regarded Deshon Marman, a black University of New Mexico football player who was barred from traveling to his good friend's funeral in 2011 because of his baggy pants. He was actually on board for 20 minutes before airline employees forced him to deplane, citing his pants being "below his butt and his boxer shorts were showing." This might make sense ... until you see this:


No way, right? If baggy pants are an issue, then this certainly should be. As it turns out, though, it wasn't. US Airways allowed this passenger to fly six days before Marman was kicked off for having his boxers showing.

Said Joe O'Sullivan, Marman's attorney, "It just shows the hypocrisy involved ... Employees didn't ask him to cover up. He didn't have to talk to the pilot. They didn't try to remove him from the plane — and many people would find his attire repugnant. A white man is allowed to fly in underwear without question, but my client was asked to pull up his pajama pants because they hung below his waist."

The US Airways contract states that passengers who "may pose a threat to the comfort and safety of other passengers or employees" or "who are over the age of five and barefoot, or otherwise inappropriately clothed" may be denied boarding privileges. There is no specific dress code, but there is plenty of room for implicit racism.

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Christine Salek

Christine is a writer and perpetual student living in Des Moines, Iowa. Her writing can also be found on Medium, the Gonzaga Bulletin, and ResearchGate.

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