United Airlines bans teens over wearing leggings on flight: They were right to do so

Rude and ridiculous passengers on planes

Flying to your destination used to be reserved for the rich and famous, now everyone, including the trouserless can enjoy the convenience of flight.

Here we go again. Or don't go, because your outfit's too skimpy to get on the plane.

Less than a year after JetBlue Airlines made an Oregon burlesque dancer cover up her booty shorts or else get kicked off her flight home, another carrier has found the travel attire of young would-be passengers to be lacking.

Lacking material, that is.

United Airlines has been defending its decision, via Twitter, to not allow two teenage girls wearing leggings to board a flight from Denver to Minneapolis - a third was able to fly after buying a dress to put over the offending leg wear. The airline's reasoning: the girls were flying on employee passes, presumably given to them by someone who works at United.

Although the dress code is apparently looser for those who pay full price for tickets, the airline holds the right to decide that code for those who fly for free. And at the risk of letting my "pedestrian Puritan religious roots show through" like a reader accused me of when I wrote about the JetBlue incident, I have to say I agree with the airline.

Yes, I'm siding with The Man. I'm as shocked as you are.

Actually, I sort of did the same last year, when dancer Maggie McMuffin was forced to cover her very short shorts with a tiger sweater on JetBlue. Although those kind of dress codes, which almost always are more stringent for women than for men, are "a slippery slope when all of our personal expression is subject to veto by whoever it might offend," that ultimately "rules are rules." And if those were JetBlue's rules, those were their rules. McMuffin felt so strongly about it that she refused to grant me a follow-up interview.

This time, my backing of the airline's standards are less about censorship and more about accepting free stuff. Sure, leggings are now accepted as pants in many circles now, but United doesn't see it that way. And even though they've given their employees, and, by extension, their friends and family, a valuable perk, they reserve the right to decide the manner in which that perk is used. An airline employee told the Washington Post that the leggings were "not in compliance with our dress code policy for company benefit travel."

And I think they have the right to do that, because it implies that rules are different for people who pony up the full fare. It's been discussed that perhaps United considers their employees, and those they give the passes to, not only their guests but their professional representatives, and that if there was a question about their wardrobe or behaviour raised by another passenger, it would reflect badly on the airline. I have no problem with that.

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See also: Airlines still have dress codes, even if you don't know about them

My job, like those of airline employees who get free flights, comes with perks like getting to attend performances I'm going to review, or sometimes sampling food for work purposes. But I understand that those perks have conditions, and that if I don't agree with the parameters, I don't have to accept those assignments.

It reminds me of the kerfluffle between the NBA and some of its players in 2005 when the league instituted a dress code for travel, requiring a jacket and tie rather than the hip-hop-inspired jerseys, exposed tattoos and baggy shorts that were the style of the day. The players initially saw the rule as an imposition on their personal expression, but the league maintained that they just wanted their very, very well-paid representatives to look professional when they represented it. (The dress code has now been relaxed to allow dress shirts and dress slacks or jeans without a jacket. And again, I'm not weeping for the rich people.)

Would I like to be kicked off a flight because someone didn't like what I was wearing? Of course not. No one would. But if the airline could point to a clearly-designated rule that governed the free ticket I had accepted, I would have to either buy a cover-up or pay full price. To me, it's not as much about freedom of expression in this case as making sure you read the fine print before you get a freebie.

That's not a fun rule. But it's the one that got those girls a free ticket. So, I guess, that's one for The Man. Yeah, it is weird to type that.

What do you think? Leave a comment or vote in our poll below

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See also: Australian tourists' dress standards - are we a nation of slobs?

See also: World's rudest plane passenger removes shoes, then pants, on flight

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