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United Airlines mocked online for barring girls wearing leggings from boarding flight

United Airlines jets sit at the gates at the O'Hare International Airport in Chicago pm Sept. 19, 2014. EPA/KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI

United Airlines is defending a gate agent’s decision to bar two young girls from boarding a plane reportedly for wearing leggings, despite a firestorm of criticism online.

The incident occurred on a flight from Denver to Minneapolis on Sunday morning and was first reported on Twitter by Shannon Watts, the founder of anti-gun violence group Moms Demand Action.

Watts went on to tweet that the girls – one as young as 10-years-old – were forced to change or put on dresses over the leggings. However their father was allowed to board without incident despite having on shorts that were a few inches above his knees, she told the New York Times.

United Airlines responded saying the girls were “United pass” riders –  travelling on tickets available for employees or eligible dependents – and were subject to their dress code policy. They also cited a rule in their ‘Contract of Carriage’ that states they have the right to refuse passengers who are “barefoot or not properly clothed.”

Delta Airlines and American Airlines both cite lack of footwear as a condition of removal or refusal to transport, but neither defines a dress code or specifically mentions clothing.

The backlash was swift and severe as thousands retweeted Watts’ original tweet. Many questioned what “properly clothed” means for a 10-year-old and accused the gate agent of sexualizing her outfit.

Celebs too weighed in, including Chrissy Teigen:

Billy Eichner pointed out some possible double standards:

And Patricia Arquette was on team leggings as well:

United Airlines spent the day responding to various critics on Twitter and it’s official response remains the same as the time of posting.