By Stefanie Waldek, T+L, 2023
Please leave the open-toed shoes in your suitcase.
While most airlines don't have a formal dress code, there are some widely accepted guidelines for what to wear on a plane. Or, more specifically, what not to wear on the plane. Reasons for these rules and recommendations range from cleanliness to comfort to convenience. And if you read your airline's contract of carriage (a.k.a. the fine print), there are actually some genuine requirements to follow, too, or else you'll run the risk of being kicked off your flight. Before you head to the airport for your next trip, read through this list of what not to wear on a plane.
If you're heading to a warm-weather destination, it might be tempting to wear sandals on the plane, but you might want to think twice about that decision. "It's probably been a while since that carpet and under the seats were shampooed and deep cleaned," said Bobby Laurie, a travel expert and former flight attendant. "Also always wear shoes in the bathroom. Don't think it's just water on the floor — it probably isn't."
This is where airline fine print comes into play. Most carriers reserve the right to refuse boarding to passengers wearing offensive clothing. The verbiage is intentionally vague, but it typically refers to profanity in text or general lewdness. If an airline deems your clothing to be offensive, you may be asked to change. And if you refuse, you may be kicked off your flight.
We're all for being comfortable on a flight, but since you do have to be out in public, it's best not to wear pajamas to the airport and onto the plane. "Instead, wear loose-fitting, comfortable pants with an elastic band," said Susan Fogwell, a former flight attendant with 22 years of experience. "For example, Athleta's Balance Pant is just as comfortable as pajamas, but they're pants." The one exception: If you're flying business class, and you're handed pajamas for your flight, those are acceptable to wear on the plane — just change before landing.
Hawaiian Airlines is one of the few that does publish a dress code, and it specifically bans swimming attire. Considering that aircraft don't have swimming pools, that shouldn't be a problem. You can always don a cover-up if you feel you must wear your bathing suit on a flight.
A Single Layer
Because you can never tell what the temperature will be on a plane, it's always a good idea to prepare for all scenarios. And that's why wearing a single layer — be it a tank top or thick sweater — is not a good idea. "Wear layers so you're prepared if it's cold, and remove layers if it's hot," said Laurie.
Bulky Metal Jewelry
Accessories might be fun to play with for a night out on the town, but keep your bulky metal jewelry packed in your carry-on while traveling. (Never check anything valuable.) You'll likely have to take it off when you go through airport security, which is more of a hassle than it's worth. Lovers of flashy timepieces will benefit from keeping their watches safe in a travel case.
Be kind to your fellow passengers who have sensitivities to certain fragrances and avoid wearing anything too strong. Scents spread far and wide when you're in an enclosed space like an airplane cabin, and your favorite fragrance might be overpowering to others.