Green Day incident spurs question: Should airlines enforce dress codes?

By Fran Golden
October 3, 2012
Courtesy<a href='"_blank"'> Naomi Lir/Flickr</a>

Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland last week because he was wearing saggy pants. A flight attendant reportedly asked the alt rock singer, 39, to pull up his trousers. He refused.

Armstrong tweeted "Just got kicked off a Southwest flight because my pants sagged too low! What the f---? No joke!" He was allowed to board the next flight to Burbank, and Southwest has since apologized.

But why would the Southwest flight attendant think it was her right to comment on a rock star's dress? Because Southwest's Contract of Carriage, listed on the carrier's website, includes a dress code.

In its passenger rules, the carrier states it can refuse to transport "Persons whose conduct is or has been known to be disorderly, abusive, offensive, threatening, intimidating, violent, or whose clothing is lewd, obscene, or patently offensive."

Armstrong is not the first to be kicked off a Southwest flight based on dress.

Southwest also famously booted a college student who worked as a Hooters waitress in 2007, reportedly because her skirt was too short and tank top too revealing. She was allowed to stay on the flight when she readjusted her clothing.

While there was a time when carriers required those in First Class to dress up, most airlines have relaxed those standards. Except, two years ago a top executive of Best Buy was denied a First Class seat on a United Airlines flight, reportedly because his Puma tracksuit was deemed too casual for the front of the plane.

Like Green Day's Armstrong, a University of New Mexico football player was kicked off a US Airways flight in June for wearing low-riding pants. In the case of Deshon Marman, he was arrested when he allegedly resisted. The charges didn't stick.

US Airways' passenger contract, like that of Southwest, makes for an interesting read, stating that those who are "barefoot, or otherwise inappropriately clothed, unless required for medical reasons" can be denied boarding.

But the whole concept of proper clothing is subjective. US Airways had no problem with allowing an older man dressed in skimpy women's lingerie to fly last June. A surprised fellow passenger on the Fort Lauderdale to Phoenix flight snapped a photo.

American Airlines is among other carriers clearly stating in its rules it can refuse transport to a passenger "clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offence to other passengers."

We welcome your comments on airline dress codes.

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