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United Airlines Accused of ‘Policing Women’s Bodies’ After Girls Not Allowed on Plane for Improper Attire

United Airlines was caught up in a Twitter war over two girls being unable to fly. (Anna Zvereva)

Social media users accused United Airlines of sexist dress code practices when three girls wearing leggings were prohibited from boarding a flight due to their clothing.

The airline was forced to issue a statement Monday, March 27, after a back-and-forth with gun safety group Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts a day earlier.

United said passengers who are one of United’s employees and “pass riders,” relatives or friends of the company’s employees who receive free or discounted airfare “are considered representatives of United.”

“Like most companies, we have a dress code that we ask employees and pass riders to follow. The passengers … 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,” it concluded.

Watts tweeted Saturday, March 26, that a gate agent was not letting three girls on board a flight from Denver to Minneapolis due to their attire.

The rep responded pointing to their contract of carriage, which stated the airline can refuse to transport “passengers who are barefoot or not properly clothed,” something that is “left to the discretion of the agents.” The contract does not define what “properly clothed” is.

The squabble continued into the afternoon, with Watts saying one girl, a 10-year-old, according to Watts, needed to wear a dress over her leggings to be allowed on the flight. The other two girls, both teenagers, were unable to board because they had no other clothing to wear over the leggings.

United Airlines spokesman Jonathan Guerin told NBC News the three elected to stay in Denver so that they would not be separated. Guerin said the travel agent’s actions were appropriate and the girls would have been allowed to board the flight in their original attire if they were not “pass riders.”

The episode launched many tweets from both sides of the spectrum.

Some, including celebrities like Crissy Teigen and LeVar Burton, felt Watt’s outrage was warranted.

Others felt the issue was blown out of proportion.

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