United Airlines defended their decision on Twitter, citing a rule in the company's Contract of Carriage, which says that the company can refuse transportation to "passengers who are barefoot or not properly clothed" and that the decision is "up to the agents". "But when flying as a pass traveler, we require pass travelers to follow rules, and that is one of those rules".
Early Sunday, however, when fellow passenger Shannon Watts tweeted the incident it was not known that the two girls were on a company pass.
That's when one Shannon Watts said on Twitter she had witnessed a gate agent refusing to let two girls board a flight from Denver to Minneapolis due to their leggings. The dress code means passengers flying under an employee travel pass can't wear spandex or lycra trousers, which are pretty standard loungewear.
United, a major American airline headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, is the world's third-largest when measured by revenue. "They were fine with it and completely understood", United Airlines Spokesman, Jonathan Guerin, said.
"Any attire that is provocative, inappropriately revealing, or see-through clothing".
CNN reports that the particular passengers - who, according to The Washington Post, are teen girls - were flying via United's travel perk program. That might have meant a jacket and tie 20 years ago, but as customers have opted for more comfortable attire, airlines have let pass riders dress down too, Sumers said.
Watts, in a phone interview on Monday, conceded that she did not initially realize that the girls were using passes that entailed following a dress code.
"She's forcing them to change or put dresses on over leggings or they can't board".
United pass travelers also can't fly in flip flops, slippers and clothing with holes or tears. That dress code says spandex trousers are "unacceptable" as are mini skirts and shorts that are shorter than 3 inches above the knee. "A dress code still shouldn't be gendered and sexist". A man dressed wrong for a particular setting - or whose clothing is more snug than ideal - isn't generally presumed to have seductive intent.
"Our regular passengers will not be denied boarding because they are wearing leggings or yoga trousers", a Washington Post spokeswoman said.
But forget about the passenger agreement, United said later.
JetBlue prohibits leggings but says jogging suits are acceptable. Why did dad board wearing shorts?
"The only thing a passenger needs to know when they fly is that an airline may have a set of standards around language", he told USA Today.
"I feel like the dress code is a little outdated", she said.