This summer the entire world became obsessed with the erotic antics of billionaire Christian Grey and his mistress, Anastasia Steele. An international bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey has been credited with helping people, mainly women, embrace their sexuality, opening their minds to a whole realm of possibilities. The trilogy of books was everywhere.
I’m sure that after a few weeks of hearing them discussed by every radio station, newsroom, and television talk show you were all as sick of it as I was. However, the point remains, whether they loved it or hated it, each and every one of these shows and newspaper articles discussed how the success of the trilogy – deemed erotica or literary porn – was the start of a revolution, and that these books would join people together in their embrace of the unknown.
They lied. This summer, amidst all of the hype surrounding Mr. Grey, the story broke that some US carriers had taken issue with the way their passengers dress. In some cases, passengers were asked to cover up or were even barred from boarding their flights. Their crime? They were either showing too much skin or wearing items of clothing deemed offensive because of the slogans printed on them.
When questioned about such practices US Airways spokesman John McDonald was broadly quoted as saying, “It’s not an issue of a dress code, it’s one of disruption … like watching pornography within sight of other passengers.”
Undoubtedly, and perhaps somewhat ironically, these passengers were boarding planes on which some of their fellow passengers were reading about Anastasia Steele’s inner goddess dancing the merengue.
Due to the media coverage surrounding the books the only passengers who couldn’t have known they were surrounded by people reading “dirty dirty porn” on board must have been those who prefer to be blindfolded throughout the entire check-in process. However, presumably, if an airline were to have tried to stop passengers from boarding a plane with Fifty Shades of Grey in tow, there would have been some pretty empty planes in America this summer.
So this begs the question, is this sensitivity to how people dress a uniquely American experience or could the same situation arise in Europe? I contacted some European carriers to find out. On contacting them I asked two questions, did their airline have a dress code and could they see a situation arising whereby a passenger would be barred from boarding an aircraft as a result of his or her attire?
Now you need to remember that the people I contacted were the press officers for their respective airlines; one would assume that they have heard some bizarre questions in their time. However, for most of them, this seems to have been up there with the best of them. I was met by confusion by every single person I spoke to. I was asked to repeat the questions, explain the questions, and I’m pretty sure I even heard one or two of them laughing down the other end of the phone.
Not only was a dress code not an issue, it was something they had never thought of in their wildest dreams. Both easy Jet and Lufthansa did refer to a general code of conduct, noting, however, that this has more to do with whether or not a passenger is inebriated (and how he or she acts thusly) than how a passenger is attired.
Lufthansa spokeswoman Gudrun Gorner did suggest that a passenger might be asked to cover up if the item of clothing was particularly offensive but she could not see a situation where a paying passenger would be refused entry to their flight.
Airlines questioned, I decided to ask some well-travelled Irish friends if they have any opinions regarding airline dress codes. Apart from a lot of laughter at how prudish Americans seem to be, they agreed that the way other passengers are dressed does not affect them in the least, and in fact they couldn’t remember a single thing about the attire of their fellow passengers on past flights. One thing they did notice, much to their disappointment, was that there are still people reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
So it seems to me that Europeans are far too concerned with drinking and judging what other people are reading to give two figs about how their fellow passengers are dressed. And America, we think you should be the same.
[Editor's note: The author is an Irish lass, and this is an opinion piece.]