Airline dress codes aren’t just for flight attendants in neckerchiefs. JetBlue has turned its employees into high school hall monitors, marching passengers away from the gate if their clothes are too revealing for the moral doctrine of the sky.
Seattle-based burlesque performer Maggie McMuffin learned that in Boston last month when JetBlue gate agents at Logan International Airport forbid her from boarding her flight back home until she changed her shorts. She told a local CBS affiliate that an airline employee said her outfit was “not appropriate” according to the flight crew and pilot, who decided she needed to find a new getup:
She says she didn’t have any other clothes with her and offered to tie the sweater around her waist, and even asked for a blanket but was not allowed. She says she was offered to be booked on another flight. She felt forced into searching the airport and finally buying $22 sleep trunks just to get home.
McMuffin’s shorts were indeed short, as well as absolutely adorable and far fuller-coverage than the average bathing suit. They actually didn’t expose that much of her legs at all—a pair of sweatsocks covered all but a foot or so of thigh. This gets at one the major absurdities in the Case of Maggie McMuffin and the Chevron Short-Shorts: If the foot of thigh were situated just a few inches further south, JetBlue would have in all likelihood condoned McMuffin’s outfit. But the dress code asks airline employees to adjudicate whether any given area of thigh is fundamentally different or more vulgar than any other area of thigh.
The other glaring gap in logic in this airline farce is that JetBlue has no explicit dress code, just a line in its contract of carriage that gives employees the right to eject passengers wearing clothing that is “lewd, obscene, or patently offensive.” McMuffin was just connecting in Boston; on her JetBlue flight there from New York, no one made a peep about her shorts. The Boston employees even offered to rebook her on a different JetBlue flight. Clearly, it was just this particular crew that had a problem with a particular portion of her thighs.
McMuffin says she was told the JetBlue employees had to abide by the pilot’s decision and that he had the final say. Why should the pilot—pretty much the only person on the flight who would never have to see McMuffin—have a say at all, much less the final one? “The gate and onboard crew discussed the customer’s clothing and determined that the burlesque shorts may offend other families on the flight,” an airline representative said in a statement. “We support our crew members’ discretion to make these difficult decisions.” McMuffin clarified that “they’re not, like, burlesque shorts—they’re just shorts.”
JetBlue reimbursed McMuffin for her new shorts and offered her a $162 credit for future flights, but McMuffin has said she doesn’t want to fly JetBlue again—she’d rather get an apology and make the airline issue a clear, explicit dress code in place of its subjective standards. Under the current guidelines, JetBlue crews get no concrete parameters. Are wedgie jeans, which outline the butt crack but cover it in denim, obscene? How about those T-shirts that look like a body in a bathing suit? There’s no actual or pictorial nudity involved, but those cartoon breasts sure are suggestive. And what to make of all the other boardwalk Ts, like the Big Johnson franchise, the weed and molly genre, and “Female Body Inspector” line? What about the Rihanna-endorsed Manolo Blahnik bootpants, which cost nearly $4,000 and are lined in kid leather but may expose the upper reaches of the hip flexors? What about long underwear, which covers absolutely everything but is technically underwear?
McMuffin is right: JetBlue’s loosey-goosey policy is no policy at all. For the sake of upper thighs everywhere, may McMuffin’s stage nickname, “the pelvis of justice,” prevail.