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People are freaking out that United told women they couldn't wear leggings on a flight — here's what really happened

Rebecca Harrington and Benjamin Zhang


united airlines airport

(A United Airlines counter is seen at LaGuardia Airport in New York, Wednesday, March 15, 2017.AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
United Airlines refused to let two women board a flight on Sunday because they were wearing leggings, and people on Twitter are outraged.

The gate agent on Flight 215 from Denver to Minneapolis initially refused to let three women in leggings on the plane. One of them, a 10-year-old girl, was reportedly allowed to board after putting on a dress over the leggings.

Two other passengers weren't let on the plane. But a company spokesperson said it was because they were using a United employee's flight benefits, and employees — and friends or family flying on their passes — have to adhere to a dress code since they are representing the airline when they fly.

Those women were asked to fix their dress code violation, and that they would be put on the next flight with space once they did, the spokesperson told Business Insider.

The United spokesperson added that paying passengers are not subject to these restrictions and are allowed to wear leggings.

With spring break and the summer travel season just around the corner, United actually distributed an internal email to gate agents and other employees on Saturday — reminding them of the airline's pass travel dress code. 

In the email obtained by Business Insider, United lists leggings as one of the garments prohibited when using employee travel privileges. United wrote:

"Before you and your pass riders head to the airport for your next trip, please take a few minutes to review our pass travel attire requirements when using your travel privileges. It’s important you and your companions feel comfortable when you travel, so casual attire is allowed provided it looks neat and is in good taste for the local environment. Unacceptable pass travel attire includes beach-type rubber flip flops, slippers, anything with holes or tears, anything that reveals your midriff or undergarments and form-fitting Lycra or spandex pants, such as leggings. For the complete list of clothing restrictions, see the Pass Travel Attire Policy on the Travel tab."

The backlash began when Shannon Watts, a gun control activist with over 32,000 Twitter followers, tweeted that she witnessed the incident, tagging United.

The airline tweeted back, citing its contract passengers agree to when buying a ticket that gate agents "have the right to refuse transport for passengers who are barefoot or not properly clothed."

United also cited its "dress code for pass travelers" in its responses to Watts on Twitter.

But the outrage online was swift. A Twitter Moment sums up the conflict:


One Twitter user dug up a tweet United posted in June 2016 of a woman in leggings doing a yoga pose in the airport:


Delta Airlines even threw some shade — though it was unclear whether it was intentional or not — to a passenger who thanked the airline within Watts' main thread with United:


Benjamin Zhang contributed reporting.

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