United clarifies dress code stance after girls in leggings barred from DIA flight

DENVER -- Three teenage girls were barred from boarding a United Airlines flight from Denver to Minneapolis on Sunday morning after their leggings violated dress code for "company benefited travel," the airline said.

Witnesses said on social media the girls were wearing “uncovered leggings,” which a gate agent deemed inappropriate.

One girl was allowed on the flight after she put a dress on over her leggings. The other two girls were held off the flight.

Shannon Watts first posted the incident on Twitter. Watts lives in Denver and is the founder of Moms Demand Action, a national gun safety advocacy group.

Social media quickly picked up on Watts' tweets and the airline was forced to respond.

United Airlines said the passengers were "pass riders" who are held at a higher standard.

“The passengers this morning were United pass riders who were not in compliance with our dress code policy for company benefit travel,” the airline said on Twitter.

Airline spokesman Jonathan Guerin said a pass traveler is someone who flies on standby under employee benefit. Guerin added the stricter dress code does not apply to customers who buy tickets as regular passengers.

Later Sunday, United released a statement explaining its stance on the issue.

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."