This is the incredibly ridiculous United Airlines/dress code/ leggings story. I don’t want to write about it: there are no good guys, lots of miscreants, and I have a well-earned bias against United already.
Fortunately, the travel site One Mile At A Time did a thorough and ethically astute analysis, here, ending like this:
I see non-revenue passengers asked to follow different rules nearly every time I fly — you probably do too. Nothing about two non-revs being asked to change clothes and/or take a later flight is shocking or newsworthy or even interesting to anyone with an ounce of perspective.
Exactly: not even interesting. So how did this become a hot story on cable news and social media? Well..
1. Two employees of United didn’t follow company policy regarding proper dress when they fly free. They were Wrong.
2. A family behind the two employees in line and who didn’t understand what was happening leaped to conclusions, and made their daughter change what she was wearing too, completely unnecessarily. They were Wrong.
3. A prominent publicity-seeking social justice warrior, Shannon Watts, was an observer of all this, and began furiously tweeting, misrepresenting what was going on, and claimed that United was engaged in sexist and discriminatory conduct, when it was not. She was Wrong.
4. United’s Twitter team responded by referencing the §21 of the company’s Contract of Carriage, stating that passengers can be denied boarding for being “barefoot or not properly clothed”. This was confusing, since that provision had nothing to do with why the two non-revenue passengers were told to change. Typical of the crack United staff, however. Incompetent. Also Wrong.
5. Social media went off half cocked. Of course it did. It was Wrong.
6. The news media picked up the story without checking the facts, pushing the sexism angle. the reporting was Wrong.
7. Even after it was clear that the facts did not support her narrative, Watts continued trying to stir up outrage. She was Wrong.A gain.
Three United employees may lose their jobs; United was embarrassed, for once, without deserving it; hours of time were spent debating dress codes and leggings on news shows while Americans continued to be bewildered about how their government works, feminists worked themselves into a frenzy over a non-event, and the news media once again trafficked in fake news. But Shannon Watts grabbed another 15 minutes of fame, so I’m sure she thought it was a good day.
And that, my friends, is what makes an ethics train wreck.