A Leg To Stand On

 March 29, 2017

What can you wear on a plane? Well, that depends on who’s paying.
Sunday, a United Airlines gate agent blocked two girls from boarding because they were wearing leggings while flying “non-revenue” on an employee’s free pass. But the damage was done and outrage ensued online. (United’s Twitter post above  – from last summer – highlighted the confusion and irony.
Currently, the airline remains resolute and won’t apologize nor change it’s passenger dress rules re. “non-revenue” passengers.

It was an issue that divided the country.

On one side were the absolutists, “rules must be followed at all costs” crowd. On the other were the “airlines shouldn’t police kids’ clothing” crowd.

In between were all shades of gray.

Without rehashing the whole epic saga, here’s the takeaway:

-Gate agents shouldn’t deny the boarding of kids and teens in public, it can o nly backfire.

-In this era of social networks, using authority to create a public scene over what appears to be a questionable practice is likely to create a PR disaster.

-The United Airlines social media team is terrible.
-It’s bad business to alienate a large portion of the population.
Delta’s social media team swooped in to take advantage. 
-The incident brought up the changing culture of air travel – involving high-density seating, deep vein thrombosis risk and the necessity of stretchy, travel clothing.

-It’s an American tradition to protest and question authority.

Back in 2011, Delta faced similar outrage when it billed US Army soldiers returning from Afghanistan almost $3,000 in bag fees.

The servicemen spoke out about their experience on social media. And, although the Delta agent was following company policy regarding extra bag charges, we saw a much different response and outcome from Delta management.

This spectacle also exposed the shadowy underworld of non-revenue passengers.

Who are these people?

You may never know, because it’s very secretive. When these “non-revs” travel, they never, ever disclose it to anyone. Only the gate agent at check-in will notice it in the system – that this person is flying standby for free.

Who are the benefactors of free flight? Usually it’s for the following people:
The airline employee, their spouse or domestic partner, their parents, their dependent children up to age 22.  Additionally, there are flight buddy passes, up to 24 each calendar year, for use by anyone the employee wants.

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