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United Airlines refused to let a 10-year-old girl fly in leggings, then defended it with cold, robotic tweets

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
Forbidden comforts?
By Corinne Purtill
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

This post has been updated.

Today (March 26) a US woman named Shannon Watts tweeted that a United Airlines gate agent at Denver International Airport barred two girls from boarding a Minneapolis-bound flight for a perplexing reason: they were wearing leggings.

According to Watts, a gate agent told three girls—one of whom, Watts said, was 10 years old—to change or skip the flight. One girl was allowed to board after putting on a dress she had in her bag, Watts wrote. The other two were denied boarding.

But when challenged about the incident on Twitter, United’s response became a case study in bad PR management. For an hour, United responded to anyone asking about the incident with a robotic recitation of its terms of service:

After an hour of silence, United updated its response to say that it was “looking into” the situation:

Quartz has contacted Watts and United for more information and will update this post with any response.

Update (2:50pm ET): The two girls barred from the flight were traveling on a standby pass as relatives of a United employee, United spokesman Jonathan Guerin told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Pass riders,” as they’re known, ”are representing United Airlines” and thus held to a stricter dress code, Guerin said. There is no ban on in-flight Spandex for the general public, he said: ”If you are a customer and want to wear your yoga pants, welcome aboard.”

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