Airline Dress Code Policy Breakdown

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Other than the clothes that you need to stash in your luggage, it is also a must to carefully think about what you will wear on a plane.

There are a few important matters to keep in mind. Some of them include your comfort and sense of style. However, there is another consideration that you should never forget.

It is none other than the airline’s dress code. Yes, there are certain rules that you will need to follow when deciding what to wear on a plane. Knowing them is crucial if you don’t want to be asked by a flight attendant to change your clothes.

So, what can I wear on a plane?

What a passenger can wear on a plane will depend on the airline’s dress code and whether he or she is flying in economy class or business class. If the passenger is a pass traveler, he or she will have to follow the airline’s dress code for employees and their family members.

Generally speaking, it is a good idea to steer clear of wearing anything that is offensive or lewd. The problem is that it can be a subjective matter. To help make things less confusing, most airlines have their own dress code policies.

You can usually find the dress code of your chosen airline on the internet, on its website, or on forum sites. Make sure that you check it out before you pack your bags and head to the airport. This is to avoid any run-ins with a flight attendant before boarding or while you are already seated on the plane.

Items That You Can and Cannot Wear on a Plane

No matter the sense of style, most of us tend to go for the same piece of clothing or accessories when flying. Below are some of those that you are likely to choose to wear on your next flight.

Again, it is recommended that you visit the airline’s website or check out forum sites to have a much better idea of what you can and cannot wear.

ClothYes/NoRemarks
HatsYesYou should remove your hat at the airport security as they want to see your face
SunglassesYesAgain, you should remove them at the airport security
GlovesYes
T-shirtsYesSee to it that it is not printed with anything offensive or rude
SweatshirtsYes
ShortsYesAvoid very short ones as you may get complaints, and they will leave you cold, too
SkirtsYesSteer clear of a really short skirt to avoid offending some of the passengers
LeggingsYesStay away from leggings if you are a pass traveler
Denim pantsYesSome airlines may not recommend them for business class passengers
PajamasNo
SocksYesPutting on more than a pair on a flight is a great idea to protect you from the cold
SneakersYes
StilettosYesIt is a good idea to avoid them as they can be uncomfortable
BootsYesAlthough they can help keep your feet warm, they can also keep them from relaxing
BikinisNo
TrunksNo
SandalsYesBut they are bad if you are planning on using the airport toilet
Flip-flopsNoChanging to flip-flops while flying is not recommended as it can be cold

By the way, although it is perfectly fine to wear flip-flops at airport security, it is a terrible idea. That’s because you will end up barefoot, and you don’t know what sort of germs are on the airport floor.

You will have to decide between going through the airport security in a breeze and potentially ending up with a nasty skin infection.

Comfort on a Flight Counts a Lot

Especially if you are about to embark on a long-haul flight in economy class, it is important to mind what you are about to wear before heading to the airport.

It is a good idea to opt for comfortable clothes, the kind that will enable you to move around and sleep as comfortably as you possibly can in a tight seat and very little to no legroom.

Otherwise, you may have a Lady Gaga moment and potentially die from what’s called DVT. Yes, what you wear on a plane can spell the difference between life and death!

Back in 2010, Lady Gaga, a world-famous pop star, went on a transatlantic flight wearing a pair of Alexander McQueen armadillo heels and black and yellow tight dress.

During the flight, the singer started to complain of leg pain and swelling. Such could be a sign of DVT. The flight attendant immediately suggested that she ditch her shoes and dress, to the dismay of the pop star known for her extreme outfits.

If you do not know what DVT is, it’s short for deep vein thrombosis.

Put simply, DVT is the formation of a blood clot in the lower leg. The problem with this is that the blood clot may travel to the lungs, heart, or brain. Such could lead to an emergency health situation.

People who are smokers, obese, pregnant, bed-ridden, and suffering from some medical issues such as congestive heart failure (CHF) and inflammatory conditions are at high risk of suffering from DVT.

It is also quite common in people who spend a lot of time sitting, like those who are taking long-haul flights.

Clearly, it is a must that you prioritize your comfort over style when flying. Sadly, most airlines have dress codes that their passengers have to follow. Otherwise, they may be escorted out of the plane.

American Airlines Dress Code

With a fleet of around 1,500 airplanes (including its regional partners), there is no denying that American Airlines is the biggest airline. Such is true not only in the US but also on the entire planet.

Because of this, you might think that American Airlines has a long and elaborate dress code on its website to ensure that its average of 500,000 passengers daily will be informed on what and what not to wear.

But guess what? If you pay the website of the world’s largest airline a visit, you will only come across a one-sentence dress code policy. It reads: Dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.

We can all agree on what is bare feet means. It’s none other than not wearing any footwear. However, dressing appropriately can be a subjective matter.

For instance, what you believe is vulgar may be regarded as something comfy and expressive by another. In some cases, it is a matter of who is wearing the clothes.

Take, for instance, what happened to a female doctor and entrepreneur back in 2019 when she tried to board an American Airlines plane to go back home to Miami from Jamaica. An American Airlines flight attendant stopped her as, apparently, her clothing was inappropriate.

She was only allowed to board the plane after draping a blanket over her body.

The woman wore a romper that basically resembled a tube top and shorts in a single piece. According to some who commented on her photo that she uploaded on social media, it was a typical dress that any woman who had a grand time in Jamaica would wear.

According to her, there could only be two reasons why the American Airlines flight attendant believed that she was not dressed appropriately. First, she was black. Second, she had a plus-size body.

But seriously, if you are about to fly via American Airlines, it is completely up to you to interpret what the airline’s “dress appropriately” dress code policy is.

I just hope that your interpretation is the same as that of American Airlines to save yourself from the embarrassment and inconvenience of being asked to change your clothes.

Frontier Airlines Dress Code

Compared to American Airlines, Frontier Airlines has a more detailed dress code.

Well, sort of.

For instance, the low-cost airline gladly welcomes casual wear. It is a clear sign that it wants its passengers to feel as comfortable as possible while more than 30,000 feet in the air, especially for those on long-haul flights.

This does not mean, however, that Frontier Airlines allow just about anything that their passengers want to wear. They want everyone to feel comfortable alright, but not too comfortable as to offend other passengers.

For instance, the dress code policy of Frontier Airlines states that it does not allow pajamas. Although it strictly says pajamas, it is safe to assume that the airline does not allow any type of sleepwear, too.

This means that you cannot wear lingerie, which, we can all agree, is not appropriate for whether you are flying or hanging out at the mall. The airline also says that it does not allow beachwear. Needless to say, you will be escorted out of the plane for wearing a bikini.

The short dress code of Frontier Airlines does not begin and end there. There is one more thing that it wants its passengers to know before boarding one of its planes. It’s that clothes with holes are not allowed.

So, in other words, it is a good idea for you to avoid making a fashion statement by wearing ripped jeans. You should also avoid putting on tops that are deliberately torn or ripped by their makers to make them look trendy.

However, the airline does not make it clear if it is fine for a passenger to wear something that has a hole due to accidentally coming into contact with an object with a sharp corner or edge.

When it comes to the airline’s dress code policy, there are lots of loopholes about its stance on holes!

But seriously, according to a Frontier Airlines flight attendant, the airline’s dress code is not as strict as that of legacy airlines.

This is probably the reason why it can be hard to come across a dress horror story concerning Frontier Airlines posted on the internet. You may try, but you are likely to fail.

United Airlines Dress Code

Compared to American Airlines and Frontier Airlines, United Airlines has a more detailed dress code. This does not mean, however, that many people find it agreeable.

For instance, some find the rules of United Airlines when it comes to what the passengers can and cannot wear as rather sexist.

That’s because, evidently, the majority of the airline’s dress code policy limits the type of clothes that its female passengers can wear when flying. Just take a look at the following don’ts:

  • Any attire that reveals the midsection
  • Any attire that is provocative, inappropriately revealing, or see-through
  • Mini skirts
  • Shorts that do not meet 3 inches above the knee when in a standing position
  • Form-fitting Lycra or spandex tops, pants and dresses

Perhaps you have already heard or read about a couple of teenage girls who were prevented from boarding a United Airlines plane because they were wearing a pair of leggings.

It may seem like it is a puzzler because nothing in the United Airlines’ dress code for female passengers says that leggings are not allowed.

Well, there is a perfectly understandable explanation for this event that took place back in 2017.

According to United Airlines itself, the girls who were turned down were pass travelers.

Put simply, pass travelers are those who are flying free of charge and on a standby basis for being United Airlines employees or for being dependents to those employees.

In exchange for flying at no cost, pass travelers need to follow a stricter dress code than other passengers. Such is because they are representing United Airlines each time they fly.

Unfortunately for those teenage girls who were wearing leggings, one of the things that United Airlines pass travelers should refrain from wearing is a pair of leggings.

The good news is that United Airlines confirms that everyone else is welcome to sport leggings.

And before talking about the dress code policy of another airline company, let us first take a look at the rest of United Airlines’ dress code:

  • Attire that is designated as sleepwear, underwear, or swimwear
  • Attire that has offensive and/or derogatory terminology or graphics
  • Attire that is excessively dirty or has holes or tears
  • Any attire that is provocative, inappropriately revealing, or see-through
  • Beach-type flip-flops out of rubber
  • Bare feet

Spirit Airlines Dress Code

Because of the leggings incident concerning United Airlines and a couple of female teen passengers, Spirit Airlines made it clear that all passengers, including males (the airline said that it wouldn’t judge), are welcome to board any of its planes wearing leggings.

The airline’s dress code can be summed up as casual dress attire. Fortunately for many, leggings are a part of what casual dress attire is.

It doesn’t mean, however, that Spirit Airlines is not strict when it comes to what the passengers can wear.

Take, for instance, when, back in 2012, it kicked out someone.

It started when some of the flight attendants asked a male African American passenger to pull up his pants because his underwear was showing, just to avoid some of the passengers from being offended.

Unfortunately, the man refused to oblige. He also became verbally abusive and even threatened the Spirit Airline flight attendants. This is what caused the male passenger to be asked to leave the plane.

While leggings are welcome on the plane, there are some that Spirit Airlines consider as not part of acceptable garments.

The next time that you are about to go somewhere via Spirit Airlines, see to it that you are not going to show up at the airport wearing the following:

  • Torn, ragged, slashed, dirty, frayed, low cut, skimpy, or revealing
  • Having offensive or sexually-oriented inscriptions or messages
  • Halter, tube or midriff tops
  • Beachwear or swimwear
  • Flip flop or shoes that are dirty, stained or worn

To make sure that your casual dress attire won’t cause any of Spirit Airlines’ flight attendant to approach you, take a look at what the airlines consider as acceptable garments:

  • Shirts with sleeves and collars, t-shirts
  • Jeans or denim pants
  • Dress slacks
  • Skirts and dresses
  • Jogging suits
  • Dress shoes, open-toed shoes, sneakers and sandals

Delta Airlines Dress Code

It’s not just Spirit Airlines that took the necessary steps after United Airlines barred leggings-clad teenage girls from flying back in 2017. Delta Airlines jumped on the bandwagon as well.

On its social media site, the airline requested its employees and their family members to use their best judgment when figuring out which garments to wear on a flight. This is especially true if they are pass travelers.

To jog your memory, those teenage girls that were not allowed by United Airlines to board because of sporting leggings were pass travelers. Leggings are unacceptable garments for United Airlines’ pass travelers.

Anyway, pass traveler or not, Delta Airlines also posted on social media that everyone can wear leggings. That’s because one of the airline’s priorities is the comfort of their passengers.

If it’s not yet that obvious to you by now, Delta Airlines has a more lenient dress code policy than most other airlines.

For instance, a spokesperson for Delta Airlines said that they do not have an item-specific policy. However, the airline said that it encourages its passengers to refrain from wearing underwear, swimwear, and sleepwear as their outerwear.

Aside from the ones mentioned, you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to deciding what to wear aboard a Delta Airlines flight.

If you scour the internet for horror stories about Delta Airlines and its dress code, chances are you won’t find any. Mainly, it is because of the airline’s tolerant dress code policy, to the delight of its many passengers.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can wear anything that you want, except for the few that we mentioned earlier. Delta Airlines says that it won’t hesitate to keep a passenger off its plane if his or her attire creates an unreasonable risk of annoyance or offense to its other passengers.

So, in other words, you should still steer clear of wearing anything that someone might consider as something that is lewd, obscene, or just downright offensive.

Lufthansa Dress Code

Before we tackle the dress code policy of Lufthansa, let us first talk about a couple of facts about the airline company. Knowing them will give you a better idea of what sort of garments you should wear when going from point A to point B aboard this German airline company.

It is not only in Germany, where Lufthansa is regarded as the biggest airline company but also in entire Europe.

This is especially true if you take into consideration its many subsidiaries. Some examples of them are Swiss International Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Austrian Airlines, and Passenger Airline Group.

Another important matter that you need to know about Lufthansa is this: the majority of its passengers are influential people.

Its passengers that are not powerful members of the society are usually above-average income earners. Because of this, it is not unlikely for you to see well-dressed people aboard Lufthansa planes.

If you are flying via Lufthansa, which is one of the best in the world, it is just fitting that you do so dressed nicely.

But if you search the internet for the airline company’s dress code policy, it is likely that you will find none. According to people participating in forum sites, Lufthansa is very lax when it comes to its dress code. The reason why many of its passengers are dressed to impress is that, as mentioned above, they are usually influential and rich people.

Perhaps you have already come across a story posted on the internet about how Lufthansa decides which passengers should be bumped up to first class.

Here’s what the story said: someone had a friend at the gate of Lufthansa who said that the airline would upgrade people who are good-looking and nicely dressed. Because of this, many Lufthansa passengers started to dress well in the hope of getting an upgrade.

Unfortunately, there is no truth to it, said a Lufthansa spokesperson. The said spokesperson made it clear that it is not their policy to upgrade passengers based on their wardrobe.

What Lufthansa is strict about, however, is the way its pass travelers, which the airline refers to as eligible persons, dress. Eligible persons should be dressed in clothes suitable for an office or a smart casual event.

Definitely, no t-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, workout shoes, and other casual wear extremes are allowed. The dress code of Lufthansa that applies to eligible persons can be summed up as: dressed in accordance with public standards of good taste.

Before we take a look at the dress code of another airline, here’s a fun Lufthansa fact: Once a week, the airline allows its employees, including its pilots and flight attendants, to wear the sneakers of their choice while on duty.

This weekly loosening of Lufthansa employee dress code is referred to as Sneaker Day.

Southwest Airlines Dress Code

First things first: Southwest Airlines doesn’t have a dress code.

However, a spokesperson for the airline confirms that they do their best to create a family-centric environment. The spokesperson added that Southwest Airlines is counting on its passengers to use good judgment and exercise discretion while flying.

While it is apparent that Southwest Airlines is not as strict as some other airlines when it comes to the clothes of its passengers, it doesn’t mean that its flight attendants won’t spring into action from time to time.

Back in 2011, for instance, the lead singer of the punk-rock band Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong, was approached by a Southwest Airlines flight attendant while he was already on the plane.

The flight attendant asked Armstrong to pull up his pants, or else he would be kicked out. Armstrong replied, “don’t you have better things to do than worry about that?” The flight attendant had no other better things to worry about. Armstrong was kicked out of the plane.

It wasn’t the first time that the attire of Southwest Airlines’ passengers caused problems. Earlier in the same year, a college football player was pulled out of the plane and got arrested, too.

This is after refusing to pull up his pajamas as his undies were showing. According to the airline, however, it was his behavior that got him kicked out and arrested.

Provided that you do not intend to show your underwear to anyone on the plane, you should have no problem wearing relaxed and casual attire aboard a Southwest Airlines plane.

It is a different story, however, if you are a pass traveler. Because you are representing Southwest Airlines, you are expected to present an appearance that is clean, tasteful, and well-groomed.

What to Wear on Business Class

Above, we talked about the dress code policies of some of the top airlines that apply to their economy class passengers. Everyone knows that there is a world of difference between economy class and business class.

Just about everything that an economy class passenger dreams of can be found in business class. They include world-class meals, expensive champagne, abundant legroom, and an opportunity to have a good night’s sleep.

Because things are better in business class, it is expected for any business class passenger to dress better, too. It doesn’t matter which airline you are about to fly business class. You will have to dress the part.

The good news is that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to wear a tuxedo if you are a male or a pantsuit if you are a female.

Although no one will stop you from looking that sharp, especially if you are flying business class because of business purposes, it is still a good idea to ensure that you will feel comfortable while seated in a metal tube thousands of feet from the ground, flying for several hours.

When flying business class, make sure that you have the perfect balance of style and comfort when it comes to your attire.

Generally speaking, you should stick to a smart casual look to avoid not only problems with the airline’s dress code but also all sorts of discomforts that flyers usually experience. This is especially true during long-haul flights.

Here are some of the things that are not appropriate for flying business class:

  • Swimwear or beachwear
  • Gym clothes
  • Sleepwear
  • T-shirts with offensive images or words
  • Revealing clothes
  • Flip-flops

Provided that the clothes you believe are ideal for a flight are not listed below, there is no reason for you to not wear them.

However, it is recommended for you to give what you are about to wear plenty of thought. Always remember that you will be sharing the cabin with wealthy and classy people who are usually dressed to kill.

It’s a good thing that you don’t have to spend a lot just to look the part. For instance, a stylish scarf can turn a boring casual outfit into a complete standout. What’s more, it can keep you from feeling cold.

Just Before You Get Dressed for a Flight

Flying is simpler if all that you will have to bear in mind when dressing for it are just your comfort and sense of style. Sadly, airlines have dress codes that their respective passengers need to follow.

Making things even more complicated is the fact that different airlines have different dress code policies. The good news is that their dress codes can be summed up into using good judgment and exercising discretion while flying.

You can wear anything that you like once you have arrived at your destination unless it is against the country’s laws and customs. However, while on a plane, it is a good idea to stick to the airline’s dress code.

Doing so can keep your flight less stressful. This can help make your trip, be it for business or pleasure, go as smoothly as possible.

Photo credit: ©canva.com/YakobchukOlena, ©canva.com/Thinkstock, ©canva.com/designer491

Reed Harris

Reed is a traveler and blogger. He's planning to visit all states in the USA. He's been in 31 states so far.

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