A United Airlines agent stopped two girls from flying because they were wearing leggings, Twitter user and activist Shannon Watts said on Sunday, sparking a firestorm of backlash online for policing women’s clothing. Responding to the criticism, airline officials said that they can “refuse passengers who are not properly clothed.”
Another girl wearing grey leggings had to change before she was allowed to board her flight at Denver International Airport. The witness said the girl appeared to be 10 years old and was attempting to fly from Denver to Minneapolis.
“She’s forcing them to change or put dresses on over leggings or they can’t board,” she tweeted. “Since when does @united police women’s clothing?”
At first, United did not issue a formal response to the tweets but said on Twitter that the company “shall have the right to refuse passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage.” They added, “This is left to the discretion of the agents.”
A United spokesperson told the Washington Post that the two teens were not allowed on the flight. They explained the girls were travelling with a United employee pass and “were not in compliance with our dress code policy for company benefit travel”.
Still, many people online expressed outrage over the incident, suggesting many women wear leggings and yoga pants for comfort while travelling.
“I have five kids: four of them are women. They wear yoga pants all of the time when flying,” Watts said in an email exchange with the newspaper. “I think this policy is arbitrary and sexist. It singles out women for their clothing and sexualises little girls.”