Two teenage girls were barred by a gate agent from boarding a United Airlines flight from Denver to Minneapolis on Sunday because they were wearing leggings, according to a spokesman for the airline. The girls, whose ages were not specified, were not allowed onto the morning flight because they were traveling under an employee travel pass that includes a dress code, United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said.

The dress code bars pass travelers from wearing spandex or Lycra pants such as leggings. The teenagers agreed to change their clothing and take a later flight, Guerin said, but the airline's actions sparked a quick backlash on Twitter.

Watts said the girl's father was allowed to board while wearing shorts and called the airline's policy sexist.

1) A @united gate agent isn't letting girls in leggings get on flight from Denver to Minneapolis because spandex is not allowed?

2) She's forcing them to change or put dresses on over leggings or they can't board. Since when does @united police women's clothing?

3) Gate agent for flt 215 at 7:55. Said she doesn't make the rules, just follows them. I guess @united not letting women wear athletic wear? — Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017

.@united They just boarded after being forced to change or put dresses on over the top of their clothing. Is this your policy? — Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017

A 10-year-old girl in gray leggings. She looked normal and appropriate. Apparently @united is policing the clothing of women and girls. https://t.co/RKsIFoE8pq

However, United Airlines maintained its support for the gate agent's decision in its own series of tweets.

Later, however, the airline clarified that the girls prevented from boarding were “pass riders” — those who fly free or at heavily reduced rates because they are airline employees or their relatives. “Our regular passengers are not going to be denied boarding because they are wearing leggings or yoga pants,” a spokesman told The Washington Post. “But when flying as a pass traveler, we require pass travelers to follow rules, and that is one of those rules.”

Regularly ticketed passengers are not subject to the same dress code and can wear leggings, Guerin said. But the airline was standing by its policy for pass travelers because they are essentially representing the company, he said. “We would ask the same of pass riders who were wearing flip-flops or who were wearing clothing that revealed their undergarments or torn, tattered jeans,” Guerin said.

That didn't stop a tsunami of ridicule against the airline on social media for what critics called sexist and intrusive actions.

“@united Leggings are business attire for 10 year olds. Their business is being children,” actress Patricia Arquette tweeted. Model Chrissy Teigen weighed in:

I have flown united before with literally no pants on. Just a top as a dress. Next time I will wear only jeans and a scarf.

With inputs from agencies

Published Date: Mar 27, 2017 10:23 am | Updated Date: Mar 27, 2017 10:23 am