Why do airlines still have such conservative dress codes?

You are going to catch a flight for your long-awaited beach vacation. He paid for the hotel, bought SPF in bulk, and made a playlist to die for during the flight. I bet the last thing on your mind is the modesty of your outfit.

However, in recent years there have been a number of cases where a passenger’s clothing, usually women’s, has been deemed “inappropriate” by airline staff, resulting in them being ejected from the airline. flight or forced to take cover.

This week, TikTok star Jacy criticized Southwest Airlines for “slut-shaming her” by insisting she cover her outfit on a flight. The airline is accused not only of insisting that she wear a jumper provided by the flight attendants, but also of kicking another woman off the flight for standing up for Jacy during the disagreement over her outfit.

Jacy, who posts as @MaybeJacy, posted a video saying, “Brother do I have a dress code on a flight? Are we in high school? Are you upset about my shoulders? It included images of his clothing, which was a coral-colored corset-style top and khaki-colored cargo pants or shorts.

“I was basically wearing a corset, I was more dressed than half the plane, because it’s like 103 degrees, so everyone wears shorts and tank tops,” she explained in the caption.

It is not an isolated incident. In January, a former Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo, said American Airlines staff told her to cover up or risk not being able to board her flight to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.

The model wore a pair of skintight black shorts with a crop top, revealing her midriff, and a long black cardigan. Ms. Culpo’s sister, Aurora, posted a video on Instagram after the incident, explaining that her sister had been called to the airline counter at the gate so the staff could “tell her that she needs to put on a otherwise you will not be able to get on the plane.” flat”.

“Tell me, isn’t that so fucked up?” Aurora Culpo marveled.

Meanwhile, in September 2021, an American woman accused Alaska Airlines of harassment after she was kicked off a flight for wearing an outfit the flight attendant deemed “inappropriate.” Ray Lin Howard, a plus-size rapper and stylist from Fairbanks, Alaska who goes by the Fat Trophy Wife, shared her experience in a TikTok video that has been viewed more than nine million times.

UK-based airlines aren’t out of the woods either. In March 2019, passenger Emily O’Connor tweeted a thread saying she was left “shaking and upset” after the crew of a Thomas Cook flight from Birmingham to Tenerife threatened to kick her off the plane unless Cover Up Blouse and High Waist Pants Combo.

O’Conor noted that no airport staff had commented on his attire and that, when asked, no other passengers said they had a problem with it. And yet, when she went to board the plane, she claimed airline staff humiliated her by threatening to take her luggage off the plane unless she covered up, and by making announcements about the situation.

So what are the rules about what we wear on a plane?

Confusingly, every airline around the world can determine its own dress code, and most are vague or non-existent. Some, primarily US airlines, have a set of “conditions of carriage” terms and conditions that include dress code requirements for passengers, but many do not.

For example, Alaska Airlines policy states: “The requirement is simply a neat and well-groomed appearance. Dirty or ragged clothing and bare feet are never acceptable. You are expected to use your best judgment, but customer service agents will have the final authority to refuse travel for inappropriate dress or appearance.”

America Airlines’ Statement of Responsibilities for Passengers states: “To ensure a safe environment for everyone, you must… Dress appropriately; Bare feet and offensive clothing are not allowed.” There are no details about what constitutes “offensive clothing,” or who decides what that definition is.

Every airline around the world can determine its own dress code, and most are vague or non-existent.

Meanwhile, Thomas Cook does not present any kind of dress code on its website.

Essentially, this means that any cabin crew member could take offense at any outfit on a whim, with little prior guidance to airline passengers on what to avoid.

Katherine Allen of Hugh James, a law firm that deals with individual consumer claims, among other cases, says it’s rare for UK airlines to have dress codes.

“BA and Virgin reserve the right to refuse to charge you in certain circumstances, but if you look at the circumstances listed, they say nothing about the dress code.

“They have some information about being denied boarding ‘if you or your baggage affect the comfort of other passengers,’” he adds, noting that this would be difficult to apply to clothing.

Most of the cases in which airlines have opposed clothing have been related to hot destinations or departure points, from which some people prefer to wear light or beach-ready garments. This is understandable: if anything, more of us have been caught doing things backwards, arriving in tropical climates in suddenly sultry jeans and sweaters.

In June 2019, Houston-based Dr. Tisha Rowe had a run-in with an American Airlines staffer on a trip from sultry Jamaica to equally hot Miami when a flight attendant told her she couldn’t fly without covering her head. strapless jumpsuit . With no larger garments to hand, Rowe was forced to cover herself with an airplane blanket to board.

“I like to be comfortable when I travel,” said a surprised Rowe. Washington Postat the time. His outfit, she says, was not “significantly different from other passengers I’ve seen” on planes, as she demonstrated by posting a photo of the typical vacation look on Twitter.

It’s worth noting that, like Ray Lin Howard, Dr. Rowe is a full-figured woman of color. Commenters on her tweet insisted a slim white woman in the same outfit was unlikely to be questioned by cabin crew, while her lawyer, Geoffrey Berg, called the incident a “sexist and racist attack.” .

“I felt discriminated against for being a fat, tattooed, mixed-race woman, which in turn left me full of emotions like anger, disappointment, helplessness, humiliation and confusion,” Howard told reporters after her meeting with Alaska Airlines.

Dr. Rowe advised those questioned about their dress on board to seek legal recourse.

“I think they should take legal action. Until airlines treat all passengers fairly and put clear dress codes in writing, they must be held accountable for the mental anguish they cause through their insensitive behavior,” he said. the independent.

She says American Airlines offered her a deal, but she turned it down.

The difficulty for claimants dealing with airlines that deny them boarding, says Allen, is that airline payments are often worth less than what you’d spend educating a lawyer.

“I always advise people not to instruct a law firm if you will end up spending more in costs than you will get in damages. We are always willing to give advice, but often people do not want to continue with these cases.”

Fortunately, dress-shaming remains relatively rare on a global scale, with incidents especially rare in the UK and Europe.

Travel expert Rob Staines, who worked as a cabin crew for many years, says: “In my experience working for multiple airlines, the crew is not told to look after ‘inappropriately’ dressed passengers.”

He said the independent that in 17 years of working for numerous carriers, he had never seen anything like the cases described above.

Until airlines treat all passengers fairly and put clear dress codes in writing, they must be held accountable for the mental anguish they cause.

Dr Tisha Rowe

Crew may be asked to act if someone wears clothing that is “overtly sexual or adorned with offensive language or images,” says Staines, but will only act “if other passengers highlight a problem.”

Lawyer Katherine Allen agrees that it is an unlikely scenario within Europe.

“I think it’s unlikely here because we have ‘denied boarding’ regulations in the UK and Europe, so if you’re denied boarding and rerouted to a different flight, you may be entitled to a compensation.

“So UK and European airlines don’t want to deny boarding because they don’t want to pay compensation. It’s European legislation, but it’s still in place in the UK and it’s here to stay for a while.”

The United States, he says, does not have this legislation, hence the willingness of airline staff to confront more passengers.

“From a practical standpoint, I’d say check the terms and conditions before you fly,” he says.

“If there’s something about the dress code, and you’re not sure if what you’re wearing complies, then pack a jacket or sweatpants in your carry-on so you can put them on.”

Allen feels that it is an outdated policy that could be seen as discriminating against women.

Rob Staines agrees: “Most airlines actively encourage crews to treat all passengers as individuals and reserve judgment on personal appearance.”

After all, he says, “It’s often the case that the most casually dressed passenger might be the one sitting in a premium cabin, generating the most revenue.”

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