united airlines rethinks its approach on tweeting to address a wardrobe policy flown haywire Sunday due to its gate agent blocking young girls wearing leggings from boarding a flight from Denver, CO, to Minneapolis, MN. The girls, traveling with a companion, were instructed to correct their clothing that was not compliant with United’s Contract of Carriage, Rule 21.

United spokesman Jonathan Guerin explained that appropriate attire for employee pass privilege passengers differs from the policy for paying passengers. Employee pass or standby passengers, which can include family members or friends, are representing United when they travel.

The dress code does not apply to paying passengers who can wear leggings.

Guerin said the girls missed their flight and he didn’t know if they caught another flight to Minneapolis. The trio was flying standby or with employee pass privilege. United’s gate agent policed passengers’ choice of attire.

Activist witness takes to tweeting in defense of the girls

Sharon Watts, an activist and a different traveler headed to Mexico, overheard the gate agent say, “I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them.” Watts tweeted about witnessing how the girls were treated while their father was permitted to board the flight wearing shorts. A firestorm soon erupted. Her tweets, supporting the girls, suggested United’s policy was unfair in targeting women and girls; it was sexist and sexualizing young girls.

United responds and celebrities react to policing passengers wardrobes

United’s dress code bars employee pass travelers from wearing: Lycra and spandex leggings, midriff tops, revealing undergarments, clothing mean as sleep- or swimwear, and mini-skirts. In response and to defend the airline, United sparked a flurry of tweets, some from celebrities:

  • Stand-up comedian and actress Sarah Silverman tweeted that United consider updating its rules for friends and for family since they seem outdated and solely applicable to females.
  • Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Arquette tweeted that leggings are business attire for 10-year-olds, whose business is being children.
  • Model Chrissy Teigen tweeted that she has flown the airline previously with literally no pants, but with a top as a dress. She said next time she’ll wear only jeans and a top.”

Guerin conceded United could have handled it better and that the airline could have stopped to ask the right questions. The airline also tweeted to attempt clearing the air, stating that paying passengers can wear leggings.