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There’s no denying that airline dress codes and what people are comfortable wearing on airplanes has changed drastically over the years. You’ve probably all seen the vintage photos of olde-time airline flights, with everyone in suits and dresses, and super fancy lounges ON BOARD airplanes.

Is There A Dress Code On Airplanes?

In some ways the change in dress codes on airplanes goes right along with the changes in dress codes in society. The days of dressing up in suits and formal wear to board airplanes is long gone, and it’s not coming back. So the answer to the question of if there is a dress code on airplanes, is no, there is not a dress code in the sense that you do not have to dress in formal wear to board or fly on an airplane, even in first class. Many airlines do however have a dress code in the sense that you can’t wear “offensive” or “revealing” clothing. Often these dress codes are intentionally vague and left to be (selectively?) enforced by gate agents and flight attendants

Airlines’ Dress Code Policies

Here is what the airlines say about having a dress code to fly on different airlines:

  • Alaska Airlines – The dress code on both Alaska and Horizon is casual, and the requirement is simply a neat and well-groomed appearance. Clothing that is soiled or tattered and bare feet are never acceptable. You are expected to use good judgment, but customer service agents will have the final authority to refuse travel for inappropriate attire or appearance.
  • American Airlines – Dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.
  • Delta Air Lines – the only thing I saw in Delta’s contract of carriage was that they may refuse to transport a passenger “when the passenger’s [attire] creates an unreasonable risk of offense or annoyance to other passengers”
  • Frontier Airlines – They may refuse to transport “Any passenger who is barefoot and over 3 years of age, unless required to be barefoot for medical reasons, or who is not otherwise fully clothed in clothing that is not lewd or obscene, threatening, intimidating, or would be objectionable to reasonable persons.”
  • Jet Blue Airlines – they may remove a passenger “whose clothing is lewd, obscene or offensive”
  • Southwest Airlines – they may refuse to transport you if you are “wearing clothes that are lewd, obscene, or patently offensive”
  • Spirit Airlines – they may refuse to transport someone who “is barefoot or inadequately clothed, or whose clothing is lewd, obscene, or offensive in nature”
  • United Airlines – they may remove a passenger “whose clothing is lewd, obscene or offensive”

As you can see, there isn’t really a “dress code”, which is unfortunate because it really leaves it up to gate agents and flight attendants (and however they happen to be feeling that day)

Do You Need To Dress Up In First Class?

Well if there isn’t really a dress code to ride on an airplane, what about dressing up in first class, or dressing up in business class? The answer is pretty much the same – there isn’t a dress code for first class or other premium cabins. I’ve written before about dressing up in first class, when someone commented on my Emirates First Class review complaining that I was wearing shirts and a T-shirt.

(SEE ALSO: Emirates A380 first class review Dubai to New York)

My personal feeling is that I wear whatever I want to be comfortable, and that is usually shorts and a T-shirt. In taking plenty of premium cabin flights over the years, I’ve never felt like I was being judged or receiving worse service due to not being “dressed up”. I’ve also never really noticed much of a difference between myself and most of the other passengers in a premium cabin.

Should There Be A Dress Code On Airplanes?

Of course the question of IS there a dress code to fly on an airplane is different from the question of SHOULD there be a dress code on airplanes. USA Today argues that it is time for a dress code on airplanes, though I’m not sure I agree. You’ve probably seen reports of people dressed in outfits that don’t seem to be very appropriate to wear anywhere in public, much less on an airplane. See below for an example of an Instagram “influencer” denied boarding in Brazil for wearing the outfit below (as part of a cosplay)

Not to mention who wants to have that much bare skin touching an airplane seat or how uncomfortable it would be to evacuate down a slide in case of an emergency.

The Bottom Line

If you’re wondering if there is a dress code to fly on an airplane, the answer is no, there is not a dress code in the sense that you have to wear formal clothes or even look “nice”. Most airlines do have (rather weaselly) language in their contracts of carriage that allow them to refuse to transport you if you are wearing “offensive” clothing, which is generally left up to the discretion of gate agents and flight attendants.

What do you think? Should there be a dress code on an airplane? Leave your thoughts in the comments below

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