Update: On Monday, United Airlines clarified passengers can wear leggings. You can read the updated story here.
If you want to make a woman mad, tell her that her leggings aren't pants.
Well, apparently that's happened to some young women this weekend – while trying to board a flight to Minnesota.
United Airlines says some of its passengers broke a dress code, but people across the country are still fuming over the incident on social media.
Shannon Watts, a passenger in the same terminal, first reported the incident on Twitter Sunday morning. In the post, Watts said a gate agent for United would not let girls get on a flight from Denver to Minneapolis, because they were wearing leggings.
In a series of follow up tweets, Watts shared more of what she witnessed, saying three girls were told to either change clothes, or not be allowed to board the plane.
Two of the girls didn't have any other clothes to change into, so they could not get on the flight.
When people questioned the gate agent, she responded that she "doesn't make the rules, she just follows them," Watts said.
So who are these rebels in comfortable athletic wear? They included a 10-year-old girl in gray leggings, who Watts said looked "normal and appropriate." She described the other two as teenagers.
The girls' families were "mortified" by the incident, she added.
Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action, a gun violence prevention organization, so she's got a decent amount of followers on Twitter – including a lot of women. And they were pretty upset with the situation. Several tweeted at the airline, demanding answers.
United responded, saying they have the right to refuse passengers.
It doesn't say anything about leggings, just that the airline can turn away passengers "who are barefoot or not properly clothed."
How do they decide what clothes are improper? United says it's "left to the discretion of the gate agents."
The airline made no attempt to apologize, even though many people quickly called for a boycott.
Later Sunday afternoon, the airline stood firm in the decision, saying the girls were United pass travelers (a company benefit that allows employees and their dependents to travel for free on standby), and that they had broken the dress code.
Jonathan Guerin, a spokesman for United, told The New York Times that pass travelers are representing the company and may be held to different standards than other passengers.
“It’s not that we want our standby travelers to come in wearing a suit and tie or that sort of thing,” Guerin said. “We want people to be comfortable when they travel as long as it’s neat and in good taste for that environment.”
But the explanation hasn't really satisfied all of United's critics, with many calling the airline's policies sexist.