15-Year-Old Girl Hassled by TSA over Nonexistent Dress Code

UPDATE Sept. 12: This TSA agent was suspended then went on (allegedly) to much worse things including sending suspicious packages, clearing terminals – and making threats about 9/11.

Original post – June 18: A 15-year-old girl attired in what appears to be dark leggings and a tank top covered by a big, long-sleeved flannel shirt (see the photo) said a TSA officer shamed her this week by urging her to, “Cover yourself!”

The girl’s outraged father, founder of Boing Boing, has since sent the story on its way to viral-dom.

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Secret Dress Code for TSA, Airlines?

So what’s it all mean? Maybe nothing more than one TSA agent who had a bad day or dislikes the way kids dress or – who knows? FareCompare contacted TSA spokesman Nico Melendez for more information and he told us, “We regret that this passenger had an unpleasant experience and are in the process of thoroughly reviewing the circumstances.”

Yes but is there a secret dress code passengers don’t know about?

If so, it’s super-secret. There is nothing on the TSA site about clothing and as far as airline rules go, most only mention shoes – all passengers must wear them. One exception is Virgin America which notes humorously (maybe) that all of its passengers are required to wear “both top and bottom apparel.”

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Worst Clothing Incidents

And yet, this isn’t the first time clothes have created problems for passengers. We haven’t seen many incidents of TSA clothing confrontations, but there have been numerous cases of airline employees taking it upon themselves to enforce what might be personal dress codes. Some recent examples:

  • US Airways allegedly required two men to change out of jeans and hoodies because it was unacceptable in first class
  • Atlantic Southeast Airlines ousted two American Muslim religious leaders were ousted from a flight because their traditional garb supposedly made some “uncomfortable”
  • Southwest kicked Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong off his flight for wearing low slung pants
  • American forced a passenger to changer her T-shirt which was emblazoned with the F word

General Clothing Guidelines – Maybe

Perhaps the incidents above can offer some general guidelines, such as don’t wear clothing featuring obscenities and do not wear overly revealing outfits. The problem of course is that no one has defined overly revealing. Consider that just a couple of years ago, a passenger approached the gate for a US Airways flight wearing nothing more than a midriff-baring top, bikini panties and stiletto heels – and yet, he was allowed to board (that’s right, “he”). How come someone can get hassled over a short skirt but bikini bottoms are no problem?

Suggestion: If an airline or any other organization wants to implement a dress code, fine – but spell it out and enforce it consistently. Then, be prepared to lose a lot of customers.

Question for readers: What do you wear when flying? And have you ever been hassled or insulted?


Published: June 18, 2013