Last post on the United leggings controversy. I promise!
United Airlines is understandably unhappy about #leggingsgate. What should have been a non-issue has turned into a PR nightmare to a degree that many now label the airline as sexist against women. A FA friend forwarded me a note that went out to United employees this morning reminding every pass rider to familiarize themselves with guidelines including dress. Here’s a snippet–
On Sunday, two teenage dependent pass riders traveling from DEN to MSP (Minneapolis-St. Paul) were denied boarding because they were wearing articles of clothing — in this case, leggings — that our customer service representative (CSR) at the gate deemed inappropriate based on pass travel guidelines.
A customer in the gate area overheard the conversation between the travelers and our CSR, and tweeted about the exchange, setting off a firestorm on Twitter that gained national attention. Unfortunately, many outside the airline industry viewed our handling of the situation as derogatory toward the two pass riders, and women in general, as it was seen as singling them out based on a gender-biased policy.
As most of you know, we have long held pass riders — both men and women — to a higher, though still relaxed, standard of dress when flying on a non-revenue ticket, and that includes the prohibition of “form-fitting lycra/spandex tops, pants and dresses” among several other items of clothing.
The rules governing pass travel attire were put in place as a way to hold our employees, along with their dependents and buddies, as well as interline passengers, to a higher standard as representatives of our airline when taking advantage of pass travel privileges.
First, I share United’s frustration over this. Tiffany does an excellent job of analyzing the dishonesty and false narratives surrounding this story. Second, I understand that many are still unsatisfied that such a policy exists, even if internal.
Certainly, dressing to a “higher standard” is inherently subjective, yet United makes the rules, pass riding is a privilege not a right of employment, and most importantly, the dress code is reasonable as well as a reasonable exchange for deeply-discounted travel. Even though leggings are predominantly worn by women, I laid out why United is more than reasonable to ban them for pass riders. Even if you disagree with my opinion, it cannot just be dismissed as blind sexism.
I’ll end with this thought–I’d certainly wear whatever United told me to if I could fly around the world at greatly reduced rates. Suit and tie? No problem.
But I suppose that is not even the issue here. All the controversy over misinformation has revealed two things. First, United should be left to sort out its own internal affairs. Second, we should always think twice before responding to something instinctively. Our instincts are often like spandex: abrasion resistant, but lightweight and unsightly.