United Airlines has been accused of body shaming and sexism after refusing to allow a 10-year-old girl to board a flight because she was wearing spandex leggings.
The airline defended its decision to not allow the child and two others on their flight from Denver to Minneapolis on Sunday, telling outraged Twitter users who complained about it that they reserved the right to refuse anyone who did not meet its dress code.
Whether or not a person is suitably dressed is at the discretion of gate agents, it explained.
The girl was eventually allowed on after changing in to a dress in her bag but two others, whose ages are not known, were not allowed on because they did not have a change of clothes handy.
The row began when a fellow passenger took to Twitter in bewilderment on Sunday morning after watching the agent tell the girl, and two others, that they were inappropriately dressed.
‘A United gate agent isn’t letting girls in leggings get on flight from Denver to Minneapolis because spandex is not allowed?’ Shannon Watts said, tagging the airline in her tweet to prompt an explanation.
‘She’s forcing them to change or put dresses on over leggings or they can’t board.
‘Since when does police women’s clothing?’
The gate agent told the girls she ‘doesn’t make the rules, just follows them,’ Ms Watts added.
She quickly gathered support from other Twitter users who were just as shocked as she.
Despite the agent’s apparent claim that she was merely following policy, the airline responded to Ms Watts to say that it was her decision if someone was suitably dressed.
It defended its right to refuse a passenger entry based on apparel and referred critics in the thread of tweets to its ‘Contract of Carriage’.
The airline said it was at the discretion of the gate agent to decide who was ‘properly’ clothed, the only requirement listed for dress code in its contract of carriage
Outraged Twitter users accused the airline of body shaming and sexism
The contract’s only mention of dress code is to allow agents the right to refuse anyone who is ‘barefoot or not properly clothed’.
Stunned critics lambasted the airline for defending the policy.
‘If leggings aren’t allowed then what about shorts and dresses. Sounds like united Airlines is bodyshaming,’ said one.
‘United Airlines is defending their decision to prevent pre-teen girls wearing leggings from boarding a flight due to their attire,’ another wrote alongside a string of thumbs-down emojis.
It is not clear who the girls were travelling with or if they were stand-by passengers who can often be required to dress more smartly if they are considered to be representing the airline through their association with staff.
United Airlines’ head office did not respond to requests on Sunday morning. Its Twitter operators continued to defend the decision throughout the morning despite growing criticism.