Different cultures have different expectations of what is and isn’t culturally appropriate—whether it’s what hand signals are offensive, which hand you use to pay or what clothes you’re expected to wear. When flying, we’ve heard of dress codes for non-revenue passengers (remember LeggingGate?) but dress codes for passengers seem like a thing of the distant past. While you may be judged for what you wear, passengers seem to wear whatever they feel is most comfortable.
However, as one passenger learned the hard way in October 2018, there’s at least one airline that still has a dress code for passengers. SkyTeam’s Saudia Airlines denied Forbes contributor Jordan Bishop from boarding a flight from Jakarta (CGK) to Riyadh (RUH) for having an “offensive” outfit. The offensive piece of clothing: his shorts. These are the secrets that airlines don’t want to tell you.
In his write-up about the experience, Bishop notes that he did a quick Google search to find Saudia’s dress code. He found that the full dress code as published on Saudia’s website is as follows:
SAUDIA is requesting from their guests to abide by a dress code where by they are clothed in a manner that is inline with public taste or not offensive to other passengers.
Turns out that shorts don’t make the cut for being “inline with public taste”—according to Saudia. While the current version of the dress code doesn’t specifically mention shorts, we are able to go back in time thanks to the Internet Archive “Wayback Machine” to find the full version of what the airline finds offensive—at least as of July 2017:
SAUDIA is requesting from their guests to abide by a dress code where by they are not clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers.
- Women exposing legs or arms; or wearing too thin; or too tight clothes.
- Men wearing shorts exposing legs.
Note: SAUDIA may refuse to transport passengers, or may remove passengers from the flight at any point for not complying with its dress code.
* including but not limited to.
Thankfully Bishop didn’t miss the flight. He was able to buy a sarong at an airport store, which passed the gate agent’s decency requirements, and was allowed to board the flight. On-board, he spoke with flight attendants who recalled “several cases where passengers have not been allowed to fly.” Saudia’s policy for clothing violations is to treat the passenger as if he or she missed the flight entirely; the airline will not re-book the passenger. Instead, the passenger has to buy another ticket. Make sure you stop making these airport mistakes before your next flight.
So, take this as a lesson for even the most frequent flyer: When flying to or through a conservative country, make sure that the airline you’re flying on doesn’t have a dress code. And, it doesn’t hurt to have a change of clothes with you. After all, you never know when checked baggage might be delayed. Next, read about these things you should never, ever do on an airplane.
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