Everyone’s pissed off at United Airlines for not letting two girls in leggings onto a flight

United Airlines stepped in a big steaming pile of shit on Sunday when a gate agent in Denver stopped several girls from boarding a flight to Minneapolis for “inappropriate attire.” The attire in question was leggings, a perfectly common thing that people wear all the time, especially when flying because nobody wants to be any more uncomfortable than they have to be during the horrific experience that is air travel.

It all started when Shannon Watts tweeted about the girls being stopped on Sunday morning because of their leggings.

According to Watts, one of the girls is 10 years old, and was forced to put a dress on to cover up her leggings. Two other girls weren’t allowed to board. With pretty much no information beyond what Watts had told them, United decided the best course of action would be to explain that they totally have the right to block people from getting on a plane if a gate agent gets the vapors when someone isn’t wearing a burlap sack. They did this repeatedly to pretty much anyone who bothered asking what was going on.

“United shall have the right to refuse passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage,” United said repeatedly on Twitter. There is nothing in the Contract of Carriage that says leggings are inappropriate. Instead, there is just vague language about passengers who aren’t “properly clothed” in the passenger contract.

What exactly makes someone “properly clothed” is not explained, and is apparently at the discretion of gate agents. Eventually, though, United realized that the three girls in question were traveling using United employee passes, which carries a stricter dress code. They tried to explain this to actress Patricia Arquette, who ended up getting involved, but once again did so in an unbelievably tone deaf manner.

“We remind all of our employees to review pass travel attire requirements before using their travel privileges,” one of the tweets read.

Keep in mind one of the girls is 10 years old. There’s no way she is an employee of United Airlines. Defending a gate agent forcing her to change is far worse for your #brand than allowing a child in leggings on a flight. The number of people who would have been offended that a child using an employee travel pass was wearing leggings — a number that is quite possibly 0 — is far fewer than the number of people now pissed off that she was forced to cover up.

United Airlines spokesman Jonathan Guerin confirmed to The Washington Post that the two girls who were turned away “were not in compliance with our dress code policy for company benefit travel.” He did stress that normal passengers who are not using employee passes can wear all the leggings they want.

“Our regular passengers are not going to be denied boarding because they are wearing leggings or yoga pants,” Guerin said. “But when flying as a pass traveler we require the pass travelers to follow rules and that is one of those rules. They were not compliant with the dress policy with the benefit.”

Again, nobody is denying that United technically can do what they did. The people who are mad just think it’s an incredibly stupid and sexist policy. It’s not like people using the employee pass can be identified as employees of the airline anyway. Unless you’re wearing a flight attendant uniform, you just look like a person on a plane, so why not let them be comfortable?

But Guerin’s statement also completely ignores the fact that United’s PR team fired off all those tweets before they even knew the full situation. Even if the girls hadn’t been traveling on employee passes, clearly the default stance of United was that the gate agent was in the right.

Glossing over that isn’t going to reassure a whole lot of people.

[Photo: Getty]