Man Refused Boarding For Wearing Shorts

United Airlines had some confusion last year over whether or not passengers in yoga pants were allowed to fly. They are.

But did you know there’s an airline where men aren’t allowed to travel in shorts? writer Jordan Bishop discovered that this week while trying to fly Jakarta – Riyadh – Istanbul on Saudia.

King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh

He checked in, spent time in the lounge, and then went to board. Once he reached the front of the line,

When I got to the front of the line, though, the gate agent gave me an awkward look. “Umm, sir,” he said, looking around to his colleagues. “Can you step over here for a minute?”

I obliged, unsure of what the issue could be, and waited patiently for his manager to come over. “Sir, I’m afraid we can’t allow you to board,” the manager said firmly. “You cannot fly with Saudia wearing shorts.”

…”Do you have any pants you can change into?” the gate manager asked me.

He didn’t have pants, so he was informed he could not board because Saudia has a dress code that says passengers must be “clothed in a manner that is inline with public taste or not offensive to other passengers.”

He wasn’t entering Saudi Arabia, just transiting the airport. And apparently shorts would be fine once on board but not during the boarding process.

Bishop insists he should have been informed of the requirement earlier, such as when he “entered the Saudia lounge” although of course Saudia has no lounge of its own in Jakarta and uses contract lounges and Garuda Indonesia’s lounges there. It wouldn’t have been a bad idea to flag this in his confirmation e-mail, but most people don’t read those anyway.

Paddle Your Own Kanoo points out that the airline used to be more explicit with their policy,

It turns (from an earlier but now redacted version of the dress code) that men wearing shorts is one example of offensive attire. Women who don’t cover their legs or arms, or wear too thin or too tight clothing can also apparently be denied boarding.

Saudia Boeing 777, Copyright evrenkalinbacak / 123RF Stock Photo

Ultimately he made the flight, running down the terminal and buying a sarong That Saudia was apparently comfortable with.

Delta promotes travel on its partner Saudia. When they came under criticism for partnering with Saudia over the airline’s stance towards Jews, Delta said they would not codeshare with Saudia or offer recirpocal frequent flyer benefits although they list Saudia as a codeshare partner and honor Saudia elite members through SkyTeam. Maybe Delta could help out and warn Americans about the no shorts rule?

Now if only we could ban men flying in flip flops.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hmmm perhaps Saudia could have offered one of its first class pajamas for him to wear during the boarding process?

  2. I used to always fly in flip flops. Until the TSA went ahead with their ridiculous “must take off shoes” rule. Yeah, I need socks on for that.

  3. Worth remembering that while the rule seems silly to us Americans, we have so many cultural rules of our own that are damn silly to Saudis. Nobody is right or wrong.

  4. Because Brodie, few men take care of their feet and unfortunately, the one who wear flip flops , do not.

  5. What Brodie said. Flip flops are bare feet with rubber underneath, not shoes to be worn in public (beaches and pools excepted).

  6. “Because Brodie, few men take care of their feet and unfortunately, the one who wear flip flops , do not.”
    That’s a complete bullshit comment. I actually get a pedicure the day before my vacation, and sometimes I do wear flip flops. Some peeps just need to keep their ASSumptions to themselves.

  7. I think I’m reading an Inc. article – cuz at the beginning of it you try to bash UA yet again. It seems you didn’t get the actual mileage from your 2017 article?

  8. Another reason to stick with proven European and Asian carriers!

    However, who the hell wants to see some guy flying not just in flip flops, but in shorts, with a ball cap stupidly turned around, wearing a sleeveless undershirt so we can read his music-spelled tattoo. Imagine sitting next to such a bowing while eating.

    Where the hell is any sense of decorum anymore with the flying public? Frankly, I really don’t give a damn if some guy gets a pedicure before flying! Given the known cootees on the ground by TSA, why would anybody not wear socks?

  9. @Jason: Oh yeah? Like what?

    Perhaps we should boycott Saudia until they emerge of the dark ages.

  10. Mark: I agree. There should be some kind of dress code on planes. At least restaurants have a “no shoes, no service” rule. Most passengers do eat something while flying, and who wants to look at feet in flip-flops or bare feet. Its time again to show some class in the air.

  11. @FamTaYul: well for one, Americans thinking their way is the most modern and most correct, and other cultures are in the ‘dark ages.’ I bet Saudi women are actually happier day to day because they’re not socialized to feel like victims like American women.

  12. The moral of the story is don’t fly Saudia if you like to fly in shorts. I personally fly around the world mostly in first class wearing shorts. I need to be comfortable or I can’t sleep on long haul flights. I will NEVER fly Saudia or any airline for that matter that does not permit me to wear shorts.

  13. The strong feelings about flip flops are pretty funny. Big deal. Worry about something important. As far as the “no shoes no service” in restaurants comment, sandals are almost always considered shoes unless you’re in the highest class restaurants. I don’t think AA or United qualify as high class anything, they’ve done their best to be sure of that.

  14. @Jason, you obviously have little concept of what life is like for women in the Kingdom of Darkness….

  15. Chris – knock it off with the foot shaming! Not all of us men share the feet of athletes, but at least all men can share athlete’s foot.

  16. “I bet Saudi women are actually happier day to day because they’re not socialized to feel like victims like American women.”

    No need to check Twitter today for the dumbest comment on the internet.

  17. Its gotten out of hand with people in sloppy dirty clothing that sometimes hasn’t been washed
    While no one needs a suit to board I think it attracts the wrong passengers when there isn’t a reasonable dress code.Send those sloppy folks over to Spirit and Southwest lol
    Shorts don’t look good on some except some younger folks
    Casual is great but sloppy dirty bare feet has gone to far
    Flip flops perhaps but I prefer no bare feet without socks
    Heaven help those on board if someone has foot odor though

  18. The foot shaming that goes on the the US is amazing. Wash your feet daily, and take care of them like any other part of your body, and things are fine. Fact is people’s feet are generally washed MUCH more than their shoes, and for some people even their socks, or ‘plane slippers’.

  19. Guess what folks: the more airline service and per passenger space declines, the more the standards of conduct and dress slip away.
    My experience is that flying has become a free-for-all. I cannot depend on decent treatment from the airline, the cabin crew or other passengers.
    I try to be respectful to airline employees and other passengers, but it is never easy any longer. As someone slams back into my already cramped knees, a polite request usually gets a grudging half inch or an angry speech about “my space.”
    Mostly I find it is every man/woman for him/herself.
    I will wear and do what is required for survival. I usually end up more armored than half-dressed. I don’t want my toes stepped on.
    But I see and experience basic standards of conduct eroding, usually abetted by airlines, not prevented. Once there are specific little rules quoted, the battle is already lost.

  20. An unrelated reason why you shouldn’t wear shorts when flying i that in the event of an emergency evacuation down the slide you will almost always suffer burns on your bare legs because of the rough texture of the slide. That’s why crew members direct passengers to either cross their arms on their chest or hold their arms straight out. Nothing you can do to protect your legs if you’re wearing shorts. Ask ask any crew member and they most likely will tell you they never shorts when flying off-duty. (Sorry – i have no idea how SWA FA’s avoid burn if they re wearing SWA shorts down the slide).

  21. I guess if Saudi prefer their women to resemble a sack of onions the men should cover up a bit too. Shorts are OK if you’re off to the beach, but really don’t look great when flying.

  22. @Brodie flip flops are for the beach. NOT for flying.

    Sweat pants are to sweat in at the gym they are not daily wear, not droppy draws to hide the fat or tight to show off the fat

    Yoga pants are to wear when engaged in the practice of Yoga, not for shopping at Barneys or flying First Class.

    Slippers are for sleep wear not to walk around an airport in, or evacuate a plane in the event of an emergency landing.

    Hot pants, mini skirts, halter tops, etc are Club wear and since I am 50+ I do not want to see a 18 yr old or even younger strut her stuff down the aisle like it is Studio 57

    Low hanging pants are to be pulled up. They can not even walk in the let alone evacuate an airplane in them, thus slowing down the process for everyone behind them.

    And if you take offense to this then that is too bad, some of us were raised differently and have high standards then others. (we don’t wear hats in church, we don’t wear white after labor day and we say thank you still

  23. @TomRi

    You are half the problem, stop telling people what is right and wrong according to your world, stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, this is the problem with people like you. If people choose to wear birka’s, that’s their business, if they choose to wear sweat pants, that’s their business, if people think you are a cock head, that’s their business, Mind your own damn business and give yourself an uppercut in the meantime.

  24. So a journalist from Forbes actually thought a conservative airline would be OK with shorts? How stupid can you be?

  25. This is all on the traveller. I’ve been following this story since his original review, and I continue to shake my head that he didn’t bother to research the culture of Saudi Arabia and instead decided to make this an issue like it was their fault.

    I am a businessman that does a lot business in the Gulf. I am also heavily tattooed. I know that this is frowned upon in a few countries (specifically Saudi and Kuwait). When I travel there or fly Saudia like I did both last week, it’s long-sleeve shirts and trousers, no matter the circumstances or weather.

    Respect others’ cultures, and also respect the unwritten dress code of premium class travel. Feel free to get comfortable whilst on board (I change into my own pyjamas on nternational flights), but have some decorum in the terminal and when boarding.

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