Ever since airline deregulation, as air travel prices have fallen, the skies have become increasingly small-d democratic. While the average income of an airline passenger is above the national average, people inside the metal tube have looked much more like America than when I was young.
I used to travel as an unaccompanied minor, living in New York and visiting my dad in California. In the early 1980s I used to be dressed up in a jacket and tie to fly. Now passengers come as they are and people from all walks of life intermingle. Meanwhile the country itself has become far less formal, which means that airline passenger attire has changed along with it.
That sometimes creates clashes between an airline’s expectations – or at least a gate agent’s or flight attendant’s expectations – and the passengers they serve. Whether it’s Southwest kicking off a woman that’s ‘too sexy to fly’ or United denying boarding to a passenger in leggings (who turned out to be a nonrev passenger, but the airline’s twitter account made no distinction and declared such dress inappropriate for the airline).
What better name could their be for a frequent traveler than Andrea Worldwide? She’s a United customer who flies “every 10 to 14 days” and earlier this month departing Denver she had a run in with one of the airline’s gate agents. She says she’s a MileagePlus elite member, a status she earns flying for business and taking regular trips to Puerto Rico to visit her boyfriend.
She felt humiliated when a male gate agent stopped her from boarding her Denver – Newark flight because her top was ‘too revealing’.
Andrea Worldwide was boarding a flight from Denver, Colorado to Newark, New Jersey on January 13 when a male employee stopped her from getting on the plane, she shared on Facebook.
She was eventually told that her shirt was too low-cut — and only after that humiliation did employees change their minds and let her on the plane.
Here’s what she says she was wearing:
United’s contract of carriage says they may deny boarding to passengers who are barefoot or “not properly clothed” but fails to define what that means. As a result it becomes a subjective determination on any given flight. As a result it’s impossible to know in advance what will trigger a gate agent or flight attendant. Will Chrissy Teigen cause the next incident?
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
As an airline, United is moving more and more towards subjectivity removing bag sizers at the gate leaving it up to the discretion of an agent whether or not a bag is appropriate size to be on board. The problem is that customers and any given agent, from whatever their background, may have a different view of an appropriate bag size and appropriate clothing for travel.
On Spirit Airlines you’re lucky if passengers are wearing clothes at all…