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Airline Dress Codes

Airline Dress Codes Ban Cleavage, Shirts With Expletives
A woman flying from Las Vegas on Southwest this spring says she was confronted by an airline employee for showing too much cleavage. In another recent case, an American Airlines pilot lectured a passenger because her T-shirt bore a four-letter expletive. She was allowed to keep flying after draping a shawl over the shirt.

Dress code controversy story:

Do airlines have the right to ban passengers from planes because of what they're wearing?
According to the report, a number of passengers have been removed from flights due to questionable wardrobe choices in the past few months, including an American Airlines passenger wearing a shirt with a pro-choice slogan and a Delta flyer with a T-shirt that read, "Terrists [sic] gonna kill us all." (The guy wearing the terrorist shirt claims the misspelling was meant to be satirical.)

A woman who was kicked off a Southwest flight for wearing a low-cut dress and a guy who had to leave a Spirit plane because his pants were too saggy. It's standard for airlines to give flight attendants the leeway to play fashion critic at the boarding gate. A Southwest spokeswoman told the Reno Gazette-Journal that the company can deny boarding to anyone wearing "lewd, obscene or patently offensive" clothing; this obviously leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

With no standard, pronounced policy on what is and what isn't appropriate to wear in the air, carriers are leaving passengers at the mercy of flight attendants who might not share their taste in statement tees. And, as everyone knows, power (not saggy pants) leads to corruption.

In short, since airlines and their planes are private property and not a public space like the courthouse steps, crews can tell you what to wear.

  • American Airlines:Bans passengers who "are clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers."
  • Delta Air Lines: Reserves the right to remove passengers "for the comfort or safety of other passengers or Delta employees" or to prevent property damage.
  • Southwest Airlines: Forbids passengers "whose clothing is lewd, obscene or patently offensive."
  • United Airlines: Bars anyone over 5 who is barefoot "or otherwise inappropriately clothed, unless required for medical reasons."

If airlines do establish and post dress codes, enforcement could be problematic. Overworked flight crews rarely notice when passengers board with oversized carry-on bags. Would there really be time to take a tape measure to all those skimpy skirts?