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Too casual for first class?

Frequent flier says he was denied seat upgrade because of his attire.

By Karen Datko Nov 5, 2009 4:36PM

A United Airlines Red Carpet Club member -- a Best Buy corporate vice president, no less -- says he was denied a first-class upgrade on a flight last month because he was wearing a track suit.

The My Fox Atlanta Web site reported about frequent traveler Armando Alvarez, who was commuting from his Maryland home to Best Buy headquarters:

He said he used his miles to upgrade to first class on a flight from Dulles to Connecticut. Alvarez said the gate agent called his name and when he walked up to the counter for his upgrade, the agent said he was dressed too casually for first class. "I was humiliated and embarrassed," Alvarez said.

Alvarez wore the same Puma track suit during a Fox interview and, in the video, his attire is very neat -- much nicer than a lot of sloppy-looking customers we’ve seen on flights.


He complained to United Airlines, which is looking into the matter. He doesn’t want money. He wants this behavior to stop.


Sure, many years ago people would dress up for travel and other occasions, and -- yes, kids -- even going to school. But travel has become much more accessible, and casual attire is both routine and acceptable.


Smarter Travel, which commented on the incident, said that “today, largely due to the cramped and uncomfortable nature of flying (first class exempted, of course), airlines are the dominion of yoga pants and comfy sweatshirts, even in first class.”


In fact, according to Smarter Travel and Fox, United's only dress requirements are that passengers wear clothing and shoes.  


Airlines are within their rights to regulate attire, a story at SFGate said, but that article focused on cases in which female passengers were deemed to be exposing too much flesh. SFGate wrote:

While no airline admits to an official dress code, wardrobe issues do fall within the range of customer issues negotiated by flight attendants and crews on a daily basis. It is technically within the rights of an airline to deny service to people based on what they're wearing (or on the basis of body odor or inebriation).

That obviously didn’t apply in Alvarez’s case. He wasn’t denied access to the plane, but merely a first-class seat.


What do you think? Our opinion: This was no wardrobe faux pas or malfunction. He should have gotten the upgrade.


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