Air Travel: You May Know Less Than You Think

Flying, the thing that the average American does a few times a year, and is immediately an expert. Working for an airline for the past 4 and half years, I’ve learned that the public is extremely un-educated about how airlines operate. And, why should they? I mean with flights being so expensive and so highly secure by TSA, how could someone get a full glimpse into life of an airline?

In recent news, United airlines (before the man got dragged off the plane), got flack online for denying boarding for two girls because they were wearing yoga pants.  Now that’s what the title reads. But if you read any article that describes what happened, they just state what United stated, but unless you work for an airline, you’d still probably think that United Airlines is a sexist company.

 Disclaimer: I do not work for United Airlines.

That is Quentin Fottrell writes in his article for MarketWatch. Although the writer does state all the facts from both sides, there is an “anti-United Airlines” tone to the article. Especially all the tweets that were posted by flyers and celebrities, bashing the airline for how absurd they were being for not letting young girls get on a flight because of yoga pants.

But here’s the catch (the part that only people who work for an airline would understand), those girls who got denied boarding were “pass riders.” In other words, they flew for free on some buddy passes given to them by an employee. And the culture that average travelers don’t understand is that EVERY airline in the world has a dress code policy for employees when they use these benefits. As employees, we are responsible to know and inform those who travel on our buddy passes, about that dress code policy.

So here is where I have beef with this writer. He kind of just wrote about the situation and talked about United’s side of the story, but he didn’t explain that these are strict rules that every single airline enforces. In the 90’s, the culture for “pass riders” was to wear suits and ties and be business professional when you traveled on a buddy pass. The airlines let you fly for free, on the condition that the traveler represents the company well.

And because people aren’t aware of this unique culture, you even get celebrities like Sarah Silverman tweeting that she is “changing all my @united flights to other airlines”. When in reality, every airline would deny those two girls in yoga pants if they were traveling on buddy passes.

Air travel is one of those things that people think they are experts on, but it’s a unique world that you can only truly experience from working in it.



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