What is the Dress Code for Flyers?

Two young girls unintentionally raised a ruckus this week from travelers who think people should be able to wear leggings on a plane (as it turns out, it is OK). But because the girls were boarding as representatives of the United Airlines, they had to follow different rules. It’s an easy misunderstanding for a witness not privy to the details.

After this whole messy situation sorted itself out and United Airlines (sort of) cleared its name, it brought a valid question to the surface: What can’t I wear on an airplane?

If You Can Wear It to the Grocery Store, It’s Probably OK.

When you look into the rules, airlines are more lax than you’d think. Southwest Airlines, for example, doesn’t ask for much. From their Contract of Carriage, it explicitly lists lewd, obscene or offensive clothing, and bare feet as means to refuse transport. American Airlines has a similar policy, specifically citing see-through clothing and extreme mini-skirts.

Delta Air Lines, who took advantage of United’s misfortune on Twitter, said that they don’t have an ironclad policy, only suggestions:

In other words, you can wear anything as long as it doesn’t offend anybody. It’s a pretty simple concept.

How Will the Employees Enforce the Dress Code?

Even with the leniency, most of these airlines give freedom to their staff to refuse transportation if they see something they deem too offensive or inappropriate. Southwest Airlines caught backlash a few years ago when they asked a passenger to address a revealing outfit.

From the airline’s perspective, they are thinking about all of the passengers and their comfort. It’s reasonable for an attendant to ask you to cover up an obscene word on your shirt if there are children around. Just because you’re technically following the rules as a passenger, it’s best not to wear anything that could be considered controversial. That’s probably 99.9 percent of your wardrobe anyway.

So, yes, you can wear leggings on a plane and pretty much anything else you want. Just be mindful of others.

Have you experienced or witnessed any clothing controversies while boarding a plane? Feel free to share below.

Corey is a writer from Overland Park, KS, and has been with Global Discovery Vacations since September 2013. Once a sportswriter, he traveled the country and became proficient in airport security line etiquette and leaving items in hotel rooms.