Comfort over style: Should airlines enforce a dress code?

The so-called “golden age of travel” invokes images of suavely dressed travellers, platters of lobster and clouds of cigarette smoke.

While it’s probably a good thing that we’ve done away with in-flight smoking, some have mourned the loss of a dress code, as air travel becomes cheaper and more accessible.

The blog Passenger Shaming – which names, shames and photographs the worst in-flight behaviour – is filled with examples of travellers in varying states of dress.

While you might think that airline dress codes are a thing of the past, they do exist in some capacity.

Some airlines – such as American Airlines – have dress code rules that apply to employees and those travelling on a buddy pass.

Earlier this year, a cousin of an American Airlines employee posted a 28-minute expletive-laden video rant on Facebook after she was denied boarding on a flight from Miami to New York – which she claims was over the ripped jeans she was wearing.

A similar incident occurred in 2017, when two teenage girls travelling on United Airline’s pass program were denied boarding for wearing leggings.

Air New Zealand has a similar policy for passengers on staff travel, requiring a “high standard of dress” – with “tracksuits, frayed or patched jeans, singlet tops, shorts, jandals (flip flops), bare midriffs or bare feet” listed as unacceptable.

However, the New York Times reports that even for those paying regular fares, there is a dress policy of sorts – with US airlines United, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines all listing bare feet as grounds for removal from flights.

United also excludes passengers “not properly clothed”, while American Airlines warns that it may refuse those “clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers.”




While my efforts have never actually rewarded me with an upgrade, I think it’s still worth the effort – and I still believe it may pay off one day.

But once we’ve reached cruising altitude, you can bet I’m straight off to the bathroom to change into trackies and a t-shirt – but my most stylish example of the two, naturally.

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