Proving that policing the bodies of women and girls is not limited to prom dresses and armpit hair, good old United has jumped into the fray this morning. The airline apparently banned some female passengers, including a 10-year-old child, from boarding because they wore — wait for it — leggings. If you're wondering, "Aren't leggings the very bedrock of airport fashion, for toddlers and off-duty models alike?" we're right there with you.
United responded as brands are wont to do after being publicly shamed on social media. The airline explained that according to its "Contract of Carriage," it does have the right to refuse passengers whom it deems "improperly clothed." Why wearing comfortable stretch pants for a long flight is "improper," however, is an as-yet unanswered question — especially when the wearer is a child.
Although United seemed to initially argue that the passengers' attire was simply "improper," it soon changed its tune to explain that the girls in question were "United pass" travellers, a.k.a. family members of United employees. Therefore, their dress requirements are more stringent. Again, it's unclear why this includes a) leggings and b) children.
Of course, Twitter has been having a field day with this outrage all day, with parents, journalists, and high-profile folks like Patricia Arquette lambasting the brand for its sexist policy. Some have even pointed out an oh-so-hypocritical United ad that features a flyer wearing leggings.
Despite the negative feedback, United continues to double down on its refusal to apologise. Instead, it's tweeting essentially the same illogical argument, over and over again: These girls did not follow the rules, they did not meet the standards of United's employee dress code. Somehow, it doesn't make a difference that they are not employees — or adults, for that matter.
United seems to have gone downhill fast since what may have been its high point: its adorable holiday commercial back in December. What with tightened carry-on limits, ranting pilots scaring off passengers, and now this, the airline is going to need to act fast in order to win customers back — and by "act" I don't mean "refuse to apologise and instead just send the same tweet over and over again for a day."
We reached out to United for comment earlier today but have not heard back. We will update this story when and if we do.