27/03/2017 10:32 BST

United Airlines Defends Banning Girls In Leggings From Boarding Aircraft In Denver

'This behavior is sexist and sexualises young girls.'

United Airlines has defended its right to stop passengers boarding flights because of their clothing after it was publicly shamed for prohibiting girls in leggings from boarding an aircraft.

Three girls, one of whom was described as being just 10 years old, were reportedly stopped by gate agents from catching a flight to Minneapolis at Denver International Airport on Sunday.

A host of celebrities, including Patricia Arquette, Chrissy Teigen and Sarah Silverman, were critical about the airline’s actions after several people tweeted complaints.

Ivan_Sabo via Getty Images
United Airlines has defended its right to stop passengers boarding flights over their attire

Shannon Watts, an anti-gun campaigner, sent a series of angry tweets to United Airlines accusing them of policing women’s clothing and sexualising young girls.

She asked the airline how many boys had been “penalised for the same reason”.

United Airlines pointed to its rule in its Contract Carriage that gives it the right to refuse transport to passengers “who are barefoot or not properly clothed.” 

The company later explained the rules did not apply to “regular customers”, but to “pass riders” who are friends and family of employees who receive free or heavily discounted air travel.

Yet Watts said she felt the airline was discriminating against the girls because of their gender, adding that their father was allowed to wear shorts on the flight.

A number of celebrities also tweeted their disapproval.

Uniter Airlines issued a statement which read: “We care about the way we present ourselves to you, our customers, as we believe that is part of the experience on board our flights.

“One of the benefits of working for an airline is that our employees are able to travel the world. Even better, they can extend this privilege to a select number of what we call ‘pass riders’.

“These are relatives or friends who also receive the benefit of free or heavily discounted air travel – on our airline as well as on airlines around the world where we have mutual agreements in place for employees and pass riders.

“When taking advantage of this benefit, all employees and pass riders are considered representatives of United. And like most companies, we have a dress code that we ask employees and pass riders to follow.

“The passengers this morning were United pass riders and not in compliance with our dress code for company benefit travel. We regularly remind our employees that when they place a family member or friend on a flight for free as a standby passenger, they need to follow our dress code.

“To our regular customers, your leggings are welcome.”