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Could Dressing Up At The Airport Get You Free Flight Upgrades?

By Rachel George

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What you wear to the airport is super important. Most travelers want to be fashionable and fresh, just in case you run into a potential bae. You never know who you may run into during this busy traveling holiday season.

Now although you might be wearing a trendy outfit, according to airline employees, the only thing your fly outfit will get you are a couple of eyes and maybe a free drink. But not an upgraded seat. Sorry.

During the late 50s and 60s, traveling was a lap of luxury with passengers wearing their Sunday’s best, opposed to now wearing jeans, according to Emma McClendon, associate curator of costume for The Museum at FIT in NYC. “There used to be dress codes established for every space that you entered, and certain types of clothes were appropriate or inappropriate for those spaces,” she detailed.

A Delta flight attendant Gretchen Petrus also noticed the change in dress code asserting, “It used to be no shorts, no t-shirts, but that has practically gone all to the wayside.” And she’s right. Petrus described her exchanges with passengers who are dressed in a “presentable” manner as more personable.

Now, passengers and travelers seek after a more relaxed, yet comfortable traveling experience when it comes to attire to help bypass the constant hassles during the check-in process, where guests must remove any jewelry, belts, shoes, etc.

“When I’m traveling for fun I normally wear Lululemon leggings and a cute jean jacket, because I like to be comfy and blend in,” an American stewardess told the Daily Beast.


Recently, several female flight attendants and crew members spoke about the evolution of passengers’ attire and how it affects how they may be treated on their flight. One flight attendant who wished to be anonymous doesn’t suggest a full tuxedo or heels but definitely doesn’t condone pajamas and flip-flops and then taking them off on the flight. “If you do, then don’t wonder why [the flight staff] doesn’t respect you, or why they come up and [bluntly] ask, ‘Hey, what do you want?’”

Some passengers believe using their flirtatious charm, aside from their fly outfit will award them upgrades such as seat changes drinks etc.  One flight attendant doesn’t mind compensating any passenger with a nice outfit and good manners with a drink or two. “I try my best to treat everyone with fairness and respect, but if I love your outfit, I will definitely say it,” she said. Another agreed she would give upgrades based on a passengers charm. Meanwhile, others felt the opposite.

According to a rep for American Airlines, the airline considers a multitude of factors before giving any type of upgrades. “But it does not include how one is dressed at the gate.”

Based on this study, one thing is very apparent. Flight attendants make assumptions on passengers based on their attire, which also determines the level of respect and kindness shown to that passenger. In other words, if you want to be treated with the highest level of respect and kindness, you’d better dress up before you head to the airport.

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Rachel George

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