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Cover up or get off the plane
Everyone's definition of right and wrong is derived from unique sources so who draws the line between regulation and discrimination?
August 26, 2012 3:20 by Muhammad Aldalou
A report about several US airlines that refused to board passengers based on the way they were dressed has prompted Kipp to wonder whether such a rule could be (is already?) implemented in the Middle East. Several women and a man were told to cover up, change their clothing or leave the aircraft. The women were dressed in (what was described as) revealing outfits and the man’s trousers were ‘too’ baggy. There are many reasons to be rejected but none proves to be as controversial as this one.
Kipp suspects that this issue, if put under the spotlight by Middle Eastern airlines could become even more amplified, mostly because of the heavy expatriate-to-national ratio in the region. With many cultures residing in one area, one witnesses many different sets of values and ethics. If it does take off, airlines will have a choice to either allow fliers to dress as they please (within reason of course, we are not speaking about nudists) or adhere by their codes but risk offending any of the hundreds of nationalities flying in and out of this region.
The dilemma with most airlines is that they don’t publish specific dress codes or spell out what is or isn’t appropriate, consequently leaving passengers to play the guessing game. The issue with this lack of communication is that the airline may only ‘draw the line’ once you’re ready to board the plane. Furthermore, most people do dress for comfort, particularly during a long flight, and this can easily encourage fliers to wear more revealing outfits with the notion that they aren’t breaking any rules.
“It’s like any service business. If you run a family restaurant and somebody is swearing, you kindly ask them to leave,” says Kenneth Quinn, an aviation lawyer and former chief counsel at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
Having said that, certainly not everyone can agree with Quinn, as others have reacted differently to this controversy. Several lawyers, disgruntled at the atrocity of this action, are sticking to the rationalization that if you have paid for something, then you should be allowed to take or make use of it. “If people are paying the price for their tickets, they should be able to wear what they want,” corporate lawyer Leigh Ann Epperson told AP.
There are many factors that shape our cultural perception of what is decent and what isn’t. In fact, some cultural values are more malleable while others have concrete values that dictate every move. The point is, where do we draw the line between decency and indecency?
Dress code regulations have been a hot topic in many countries, particularly in the Middle East. Recently, there was a dress code awareness campaign aimed at expatriates living in Dubai, encouraging them to dress more respectfully. The campaign, as you can imagine, received an extreme amount of attention, trended on social media platforms and made national media headlines for days. It received a lot of support as well as criticism, as any influential or significant campaign usually does.
There are a number of questions to ponder here. Should airlines be allowed to refuse passengers based on how they are dressed? Should action only be taken if a complaint has been lodged against them or simply based on the judgment of the airline staff?
At the end of the day, Kipp thinks that if private corporations are generally allowed to refuse service to any customer whenever they see fit – even though their rejection usually comes with a little more sensitivity – shouldn’t airlines be allowed the same or should there be an exception made, particularly in the case of international flights?