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Dept. of Dress Code

Scott Vogel

We recently received the below e-mail from a traveler inquiring whether American airlines has a dress code. It read, in part:

"I was flying from Austin to DFW on Monday afternoon on American Airlines, and I saw the gate attendant deny boarding to a woman because he said she was not dressed appropriately and did not meet the AA dress code. She was wearing a spaghetti strap top (the same as you see everywhere, not anything vulgar or revealing) and blue jeans. I heard him tell her that those types of shirts, as well as t-shirts, were not allowed, and that he would not let her board unless she changed. ... I don't know for sure what happened after I boarded, but I never saw her get on the plane. On board, I saw women with spaghetti strap sundresses and several men with t-shirts. What gives? I have looked all over the AA website and can't find any mention of a dress code."

There is a brief reference to the subject on American's Web site in a section of the site called "Acceptance of Passengers." If you "are clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers," reads the statement, you may be denied boarding.

Given wording like that, it's no wonder there have been disputes with passengers. What's your take?

By Scott Vogel |  September 8, 2008; 12:43 PM ET  | Category:  Scott Vogel
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Here's my take: AA overbooked, and saw an opportunity to get out of compensating someone.

(Unless of course she was "over flowing" her top.)

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2008 1:03 PM

I suspect she was flying on an employee pass. Airlines make off-duty employees (and their friends/relatives) meet a minimum standard when flying on free tickets.

Posted by: Jon | September 8, 2008 1:36 PM

Very likely was an employee/on an employee's pass. Some airlines enforce a dress code for these people, because they do provide something of a face of the company to the traveling public.

Posted by: Andy | September 8, 2008 1:56 PM

Interesting take on the employee's pass. I have friends that travel that way, and I know through them that a dress code is enforced, but usually only if they are flying in the first class cabin (no flip flops, etc). Still, if I was at the counter and saw them turn someone away that was dressed "normally," I would have no way to know that they were on a pass, and would probably end up with a very bad opinion of the airline for what to me would look like an arbitrary decision.

Posted by: beachtravels | September 9, 2008 8:59 AM

I agree that they were probably flying on an employee pass. My sister in law used to work for Delta and she gave a buddy pass to my brother in law one time. He didn't know about the dress code and they wouldn't let him on because he was wearing shorts, so he had to scramble to find a pair of long pants. It's a totally stupid policy because nobody knows these people are "representing the airline" or whatever. It's not like they have a big sign on them that says "friend of airline employee".

Posted by: Anonymous | September 9, 2008 9:25 AM

This sort of thing infuriates me.

tanktops are bad? tshirts?? Just because you don't like (or like too much!) how somebody is dressed is no reason to deny boarding. If they can deny boarding that arbitrarily, why not reject fat people? ugly people? people without impeccable hygiene? Pretty soon boarding will be a crap-shoot and nobody will know if they'll be allowed on a flight. And then we'll finally protest and force a change in the system.

It's horrible how much power-hungry people get away with in such vaguely worded situations (often it's the older, religious ones preying on pretty younger women who are more likely to give-in and avoid a confrontation). This exploitation continues because we (the rest of the traveling public) don't step-in... in this case, if she looked normal, why didn't the writer speak up?

if that happened to somebody I was traveling with, I would be sorely tempted to make the rude, empty-headed gate agent one with his jetway.

Posted by: OmarS | September 9, 2008 7:29 PM

Any male flying American should wear just a Speedo and a efie beater that says "American Sucks Fly Southwest"

Ladies should wear Tbars and pasties and stripper heels.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 10, 2008 6:23 AM

Agree with the others that it was probably an employee or employee friend on a company pass. Yes, to an outsider it may look bad, but the the thing is, we're told upfront what the dress code is and are expected to instruct our buddies when they fly on passes. Now a days, USAir allows us to be much more casual in coach than they used to, and admittedly it's a lot more comfortable and we "blend" so much more better.

Posted by: sillymuse | September 10, 2008 11:49 AM

The inappropriately dressed woman who was denied boarding may have been an employee or family member of an employee. Employees and their guests traveling on their passes must follow dress code rules.

Posted by: Karen | September 10, 2008 12:21 PM

It's an employee travel pass. In First Class AA employees must have dress-shoes, pants and a dress-shirt. Jeans is ok in coach.
If the employee/buddy is wearing a tanktop, t-shirt, flip-flops or shorts he or she will be denied boarding by the agent. This is ALWAYS enforced for the benefit and respect of passengers.

Posted by: DAAvid | September 10, 2008 1:57 PM

I'm guessing she didn't bend over enough to suit this guy....

Posted by: Rich | September 12, 2008 11:47 AM

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