United Airlines didn’t allow multiple girls, including a 10-year-old, to board a flight from Minneapolis to Denver on Sunday morning because they were wearing leggings, and immediately afterward, the company faced a barrage of criticism on Twitter for it.
And United’s response was cold and automated when Twitter users called out the airline.
According to Shannon Watts—the founder of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization that promotes finding solutions to America’s culture of gun violence—a United gate agent didn’t allow three girls to board because of their attire. One of the girls, however, put on a dress and was allowed to get on the plane.
2) She's forcing them to change or put dresses on over leggings or they can't board. Since when does @united police women's clothing?— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017
United responded on Twitter by saying the airline had the right to refuse boarding to anyone not “properly clothed.”
Then, the internet exploded in anger and confusion, particularly when United tweeted the same rule over and over again.
The female gate agent reportedly said, via the Star Tribune, Spandex weren’t allowed on board. Since two of the three girls didn’t have other clothes to change into, they weren’t allowed on the plane.
After the Daily Dot’s Gavia Baker Law tweeted at the airline, United said it was investigating.
Our team is currently looking into this. We thank you for your concern. ^FS— United Airlines (@united) March 26, 2017
United spokesman Jonathan Guerin told the Star Tribune the two girls who were denied boarding were “pass riders,” meaning they were traveling as relatives of an employee. Guerin said their “attire did not meet our [more strict] pass travel requirements. … They are representing United Airlines.” For travelers who are not relatives of United employees, he said, “If you are a customer and want to wear your yoga pants, welcome aboard.”
Either way, Watts was not happy.
2) This behavior is sexist and sexualizes young girls. Not to mention that the families were mortified and inconveninced.— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017
3) As the mother of 4 daughters who live and travel in yoga pants, I'd like to know how many boys @United has penalized for the same reason.— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017
4) Their father, who was allowed to board with no issue, was wearing shorts.— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017
And others had ideas about how to punish United.
Hey, @united, you know how this ends, right? Images of women in leggings tagging you on social as they fly your competition.— Jenn Vande Zande (@jennvzande) March 26, 2017
United did not immediately respond to a Daily Dot request for comment about what constituted “proper clothing.”
Update 9:49pm CT: On Sunday night, United provided this statement to the media in which the airline explained why the passengers were not allowed to travel.
Let us take a moment to explain today’s news:
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.