On Sunday, on a flight from Denver to Minneapolis, Shannon Watts witnessed a United Airlines gate agent refuse to allow two young girls from boarding the plane because they were wearing leggings.
Immediately, the activist took to Twitter to document the incident, declaring that United was policing the clothing of women and girls, and enforcing a sexist and hypocritical dress code.
1) A @united gate agent isn't letting girls in leggings get on flight from Denver to Minneapolis because spandex is not allowed?— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017
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
3) Gate agent for flt 215 at 7:55. Said she doesn't make the rules, just follows them. I guess @united not letting women wear athletic wear?— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017
.@united They just boarded after being forced to change or put dresses on over the top of their clothing. Is this your policy?— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017
"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," Watts later tweeted, noting how the girls were travelling with their dad, who was allowed to fly in shorts.
As Watts' Twitter feed exploded with angry users, United's social media account stepped in to defend their decision. And that just made things a whole lot worse.
@baddestmamajama United shall have the right to refuse passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage. ^FS— United (@united) March 26, 2017
"United shall have the right to refuse passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage. ^FS," United Airlines tweeted.
The responses came immediately, including from some of Hollywood's A list stars:
I have flown united before with literally no pants on. Just a top as a dress. Next time I will wear only jeans and a scarf.— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) March 26, 2017
Lost in translation during all of this? The young girls were standby travellers.
Along with being eligible for free or heavily discounted air travel, the travellers are subject to a separate set of rules and guidelines when travelling, and that includes following a dress code.
The dress code for standby travellers states that they should not wear "form-fitting lycra/spandex tops, pants and dresses," among various other conditions, including no exposed midriffs, no mini skirts and no flip-flops.
@shannonrwatts they may be flying standby (as employees or connected to employees) when you do that there are strict dress codes— Imani Mosley (@imanimosley) March 26, 2017
In a statement released by United Airlines on Monday, they made it very clear that "Customers ... your leggings are welcome!"
"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,'" the statement read. "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."
"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."
The airline continued, "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."
#LeggingsGate, indeed. Because once upon a time, United did this:
Might we suggest all airlines update their standby travel dress code? Because Sarah Silverman is right. It seems like women are getting the short end of the stick here.
I understand. I suggest u consider updating ur rules 4 friends & fam as they seem to apply mostly 2 females & are outdated. https://t.co/41chqN32Q0— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) March 26, 2017
Also on HuffPost