You can wear shorts on a plane, but most airlines have dress codes that passengers must comply with to board. Some styles, materials, and lengths of shorts might be deemed inappropriate by a few airlines.
Shorts can be a comfortable item of clothing when you travel by road or even on a plane. But, while most of us don’t give it a second thought before we dress up in a pair of shorts for our travel, is it permitted to wear shorts on a plane?
‘Can you wear shorts on a plane’ and ‘Should you wear shorts on a plane’ are two entirely different matters.
The Quick Answer: You can wear shorts on a plane, but with different airlines having different dress codes to comply with, you’d have to be doubly sure you’ll be allowed to board in your shorts.
Let’s look into more about air travel in shorts.
Wearing Shorts on a Plane – Yay or Nay?
The term shorts is a generic one. There are too many different styles and lengths of shorts. While you can generally wear decently-lengthed shorts on a plane, a few airlines deem some shorts inappropriate.
There have been increasing posts on social media about passengers (especially females) being denied from boarding flights due to shorts that weren’t considered appropriate by flight attendants or gate agents.
Swimming or cycling shorts (implying spandex) will most likely get you stopped at the gate or the flight door with most airlines. Generally, longer-length ones that aren’t skin-tight are good to go. Similarly, long, baggy denim shorts are a safer option than short, tight denim shorts.
Shorts no higher than 3 inches above the knee and not body-hugging are most likely acceptable.
Should You Wear Shorts on a Plane?
Before you wear shorts while traveling on a plane, here’s what you need to consider.
While you could be traveling to a tropical climate destination and opt to travel in shorts, an airplane cabin can get quite chilly in mid-air. So consider whether wearing shorts, as comfortable as they may be, will keep you warm during your flight.
The reverse is also true. I have been on many winter vacations to sunny parts of the world. Then on the return flight, I have often seen passengers wearing their shorts and hot weather clothes. I have also then seen them outside the terminal in the snow freezing to death while waiting for a cab!
You really need to think ahead.
Upsetting other passengers
And then, there’s the matter of some of your fellow passengers who don’t appreciate people wearing shorts on a plane. Pair that with flip-flops, and you’ll be looked at funnily by some. But that’s their problem in my opinion.
If you aren’t bothered by any of these points, you could dress up in shorts and have a relaxing flight. Ensure your shorts aren’t too exposing or saucy to upset the airline crew. It’s them you need to worry about more than your fellow passengers.
The uptight Larry David agrees:
Airline seats aren’t cleaned after every flight, so hygiene matters if you’re wearing shorts where your skin touches the seat. Also, you don’t know how many people or children might have wiped their hands and whatnot over the seats.
You risk exposing yourself to germs if you wear shorts on a plane. On the other hand, if you have pants on, you’ll touch fewer germs.
Of course, you could always carry some disinfecting wipes and clean your seat, armrest, and tray table after boarding for extra hygiene.
Personally, I feel that if a person is so worried about the remote possibility of catching something while wearing shorts on a plane then they probably wouldn’t wear shorts anywhere for the same reason.
I have worn shorts many times and I am still alive to tell the tale.
Can You Wear Shorts in First Class?
It’s a different story for people flying business class or first class. Generally, those flying anything over economy have the good sense to dress up sensibly.
However, many “richer” passengers and particularly “celebrities” often feel they can do as they please – and do. I remember being on the same flight as a very famous Hollywood actor once who, while not wearing shorts, was dressed worse than a badly dressed hobo.
Gweneth Paltrow is happy in shorts in First Class:
Breaking it down for you; while it’s alright to wear shorts and a comfortable T-shirt on a domestic or short-haul first class, it isn’t first-class etiquette. Long pants or skirts, a button-up shirt, or a decent dress make for a more suitable look.
However, shorts could be highly inappropriate if you’re traveling in international first class. Many cultures around the world find short pants uncommon and probably even offensive.
The Best Way to Dress for Air Travel
If you’re wondering what’s the best way to dress for your flight, here are some pointers:
What You Must Have On
Comfort is essential, especially for long-haul flights. Instead of having your best outfit on, something more comfortable and slightly stretchy would be a better option.
- Stretchy pants (instead of skintight jeans)
- Breathable tops made of natural fabrics (instead of rayon or polyester)
- Long, comfortable dresses
- Comfortable shoes (closed-toe shoes are the best)
- Cardigans, wraps, or shawls
- Compression socks
- Wrinkle-free work wear
- Loose loungewear (instead of pajamas)
What You Mustn’t Have On
Some items of clothing are considered inappropriate by many airlines or might be uncomfortable for you. It would be best to avoid them for your flight.
- Tight shorts, blouses, shirts, and skirts
- Uncomfortable innerwear
- Skimpy or revealing clothing (like swimwear or innerwear worn as a dress)
- Flammable fabrics (synthetics like nylon or polyester)
- Strong fragrances (for the sake of your fellow passengers)
- High heels, slides, and flip-flops (for your comfort and safety)
- Oversized coats or jackets
While you can wear shorts on a plane, it would be best to wear ones that are at least knee-length for hygiene reasons. The ideal option would be to skip shorts and opt for something comfortable yet more covering for your travel.
Short, tight-fitting shorts might be a problem. You wouldn’t want to be one of those passengers who weren’t allowed to board because their dressing style was inappropriate for air travel.
Whether you’re flying internationally or domestically, it would make a better overall experience by dressing and behaving like a respectable human being.
I have been traveling around the world by air since the early 70s and living overseas too. I worked for British Airways for a number of years and I am also a private pilot. About Me