A United Airlines 787 taxis as a United Airlines 767 lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco
New York - At least two girls wearing leggings were barred from boarding a United Airlines flight on Sunday because they did not meet a dress code for special pass travellers, the company said in a statement on Twitter, amid a social media furore.

According to a series of tweets by another traveller, Shannon Watts, the girls were required to change or put dresses on over their leggings before they were allowed to board their flight from Denver to Minneapolis.

“The passengers this morning were United pass riders who were not in compliance with our dress code policy for company benefit travel,” the airline said on Twitter as the incident went viral.

In another tweet in response to a question from a social media user, the airline said: “Casual attire for ticketed passengers is fine. The passenger today was a United pass traveller and had to follow different guidelines.”

United pass travellers are typically company employees or family members of employees.

The policy and United’s defence of it on social media touched a raw nerve for many women and girls who have made leggings a staple in their wardrobes.

The popularity of leggings has sparked criticism that they are inappropriate attire in certain circumstances and some schools have barred girls from wearing them to class.