Should Airline Lounges Have Dress Codes?

Filed Under: Qantas

Australian Business Traveller reports that Qantas will begin enforcing their dress code at their Qantas Business Lounges and Qantas Club Lounges in Australia as of April 1, 2015.

Qantas Club Melbourne Airport

The lounge terms & conditions do already state a dress code:

Smart, casual dress standards apply at all times. Individual lounge managers will have discretion to administer these standards as they reasonably deem appropriate in the circumstances.

Though apparently they haven’t been enforced, and that will change in a couple of months. Via Australian Business Traveller:

“The dress guidelines for our lounges are the same as most restaurants and clubs” the Qantas spokesperson said.

“The vast majority of our members meet and exceed the guidelines, but we have had some feedback from customers that they want to see those guidelines apply to everyone.”

Until April 1, signage will also be displayed at the entry of each lounge reminding travellers of the guidelines.

I might be in the minority here, but I’m actually kind of opposed to this move by Qantas:

  • First of all, I think it’s ridiculous that they’ve had a rule but haven’t enforced it, and are now arbitrarily setting a date as of which it will be enforced.
  • If they’re going to turn away people over how they’re dressed, they need to be more specific. “Smart, casual dress” means different things to different people. I’d rather they be more specific and say what isn’t allowed.
  • There are things in airport lounges that bother me a lot more than how people are dressed.

Regarding that last point, maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t care less how people are dressed. What bothers me in lounges? The guy in the suit that’s yelling at the top of his lungs on the cell phone, the people taking things off the buffet without utensils, the people stealing food from the lounge, the people clipping their nails, the people putting their bare feet on furniture, etc.

Whether someone has “smart, casual dress” on or not is a moot point, in my opinion.

And what I guess makes this seem slightly backwards to me is that there’s no dress code for flying, aside from being publicly decent. So you can pay for a business class ticket and fly in your premium cabin seat, but you can’t use the lounge pre-flight to get work done? It’s funny to me because airlines actually encourage you to wear pajamas on the plane, which aren’t “smart, casual,” I’d think.

Qantas first class pajamas

Again, I’m not saying any of this because I travel in flip flops and a wifebeater. Instead I just think it’s a silly rule. Though in fairness I guess I’ve violated Qantas’ dress code once, by those standards. 😉

What do you think? Should airline lounges have dress codes, and what is “smart, casual dress,” anyway?

  1. Well, it’s their lounge they can enforce it if they so choose. I think it’s dumb, and would rather not go into a lounge than have to adhere to some arbitrary standard of dress.

  2. I generally agree with Cory. They have the right to do that, but that doesn’t mean they should.

    As long as a person’s naughty bits are covered, I don’t really care what they wear. When I fly, I’m in shorts/sweats and a t-shirt. The odds of me being dressed any differently are something approaching zero. If I’m not welcome somewhere because of how I’m dressed, I’d just as soon not go in there.

    And anyway, I’ve always thought the main thing about lounge access was to get help in IRROPS.

  3. This is just a continuation of the 1% (yes that would be you GS members) trying to make sure they don’t need to be around those (us) that are lower than them because we don’t dress in “smart, casual dress”. Many of us don’t need to wear “smart, casual dress” for work so do they expect us to go to the airport according to their dress code? I agree with @Cory, their club and they can do as they please. Should UA decide to enforce this type of rule, I would either change airlines of choice (wavering as is) or just drop the Chase card and membership to the club.

  4. I’m sorry but I for one would like to see a dress code everywhere in the airport. Its ridiculous to see grown up people walking around in a public place i.e an airport, lounge whatever dressed in sponge bob square pants pajama bottoms and expect to be treated decently. I’m sorry but you are in public its not your bedroom. Gone are the days of flying in style and class. Unless you are about to fall asleep on a long haul flight, you should be dressed appropriately. I’m not saying you need to don a cocktail dress or a tuxedo but maybe put a little effort into what you wear when you exit your house.

  5. I’ve never heard this word used to describe clothing and had to google to discover that it refers to a tanktop. A hideous garment to be sure, and I understand the attempt at humour. But seriously, using the phrase “wifebeater” in this context, in this century, is downright offensive.

  6. This is the problem with modern day travel. If only the people in the premium cabins all dressed like the people in the airline ads. Maybe a good guideline would be if the airline pajamas are a major step up, then you might want to rethink your wardrobe. 🙂

  7. What’s worse are the blaring TV’s that seem to exist in every domestic lounge in the US. Seriously, why do we need the constant noise? I don’t want to have to wear noise cancelling earplugs in a lounge, but I end up having to half of the time unless I can find a seat far enough away from the TV. Turn them off, no one needs them.

  8. I approve. I prefer to travel with a sense of style. Prefer if that certain standards, not too crazy, are met for premium services.

  9. Your previous posts indicate you seem to mind when people rudely and inconsiderately show up in hotel lounges and lobbies in robes, pajamas, bare feet, or worse. Well, the same basic standards of etiquette and decorum should apply to airline lounges — i.e. get dressed, brush your hair, put shoes on (not bedroom slippers), make your kids do the same before going out in public, and on and on.

    Then again, maybe it’s just a friendly reminder to the rules violators. If that’s the case, then I appreciate them reminding the clueless and oblivious that society doesn’t appreciate their ill manners.

  10. I think it’s a good idea. What passes as “smart casual” is pretty flexible.

    Try to remember that a lot of young Australians going to places like Singapore, Bangkok, Bali and Honolulu really do treat the trip as they would a sleepover at their friend’s house. You see pyjamas, onesies, etc, it’s pretty unedifying, and I’m quite happy for people like that to be forced to sit out at the gate.

    Last time I was at the First lounge in Sydney, there was a guy there in a ratty cord shorts, a loose singlet and flip flops. His dreadlocks were all over the place and he looked like he needed a wash. His feet were up on the couch. It was a bit much. Who knows how he got entry, but dressing appropriately actually shows you respect other people. Even if you want to wear loose casual clothes and not much of it, there’s still ways to dress like a grownup.

  11. I don’t know if they’re enforced, but dress codes are not so uncommon —

    Delta: Attire while in a Delta Sky Club must be in keeping with good taste and a dignified atmosphere.

    American: Members and guests should dress accordingly with respect for the lounge atmosphere and its membership.

    (Point to Delta for specifying a “dignified” atmosphere. Depending what you think of the lounge offerings of US carriers, it is debatable how binding AA’s “lounge atmosphere” is.)

    This may be a uniquely Australian problem since casual dress there tends to be somewhat more casual than you would often encounter at the average American airport, given that the beach is a much more dominant element of many more Australians’ lives than it is in the US. I guess you can debate whether flip-flops and a tank top should be appropriate lounge attire or not, but if you think they are not appropriate, I can definitely imagine that they would appear more often in Australia than in the US.

  12. Glad to see that you don’t care what people wear. When I’m traveling, I don’t have the time or the energy to devote to worrying about what other people are wearing. I’d rather focus on relaxing and having a good time. If someone else’s dress bothers you, ask yourself “why am I looking at them enough for it to matter?”

  13. A dress code for a place like this is about what you can’t wear vs what you can. And I’m sure someone with very poor taste probably ruined it for all of us.

  14. It needs to be vague enough that the matrons can bounce anyone out as they see fit. Madonna can wear a tank top. A 50 year old overweight man cannot.

  15. The idea that people wear pajamas to the airport because they’re poor is ludicrous.

    I saw a woman in Cathay Business class who, despite having her own built-in ottoman, felt the need to take off her shoes and put her feet on the wall. There’s some sort of biological cocooning/nesting thing that makes people feel the need to do this but it grosses me out.

    I’ve seen people pack their bags full of food from the lounge. I think most of those people have some variation of the hoarders disease.

  16. @Jill – The term “wifebeater” is a slam at the guy wearing it, not women. I don’t think there’s any need to be offended or call out Lucky for using it.

  17. I think this is just purely stupid, period. I mean I dress super casual when I fly (I am in sweatpants+ sweatshirts 95% of the time anyways). I wear flip flop & fly business/first and I don’t see how’s that a problem. It’s 2015 not 1965… If Qantas want a higher standard of dress code for its premium passengers, good for them! They just wouldn’t be getting any of my business!

  18. As long as they don’t stink up the place, I’d rather have people put their barefoot on furniture/wall etc, than their shoed feet. Shoes on furniture are much dirtier.

  19. James- I was on a Qantas A380 flt from MEL to LAX in First. There was a guy in purple gym shorts and an undershirt in First. His company paid $15,000 for the ticket! If I were Qantas I would let him wear whatever he wants. I was on an award ticket.

  20. @Mike

    This is just an example of gender differences in perception. I am also offended by the term. Throughout US history, the standard of what is reasonable has been based on male perceptions and beliefs. The courts, for instance, have finally recognized the reasonable female standard. Same thing for medical testing – only men were used because the belief that the same results would apply to women. Clearly incorrect and only recently has this been corrected. Sorry if you are offended, but the reality is that you’re comment is somewhat dismissive of female sensibilities.

  21. The term “wifebeater,” when referring to a tank-top, has become so common today, that anyone offended over someone using it is probably the kind of person who goes around looking for things to be offended by. Get over it, people.

  22. I think that there may be a correlation between people’s loutish manners and their dress. Or maybe it’s just the people that I can remember walking around the buffet and eating with their hands were wearing clothes suitable for washing the car, not for going out in public.

    I fly a lot of long-haul, and always dress for comfort, so I don’t wear office attire, but I am presentable. And my manners meet the same standard. I use utensils to put my food on a plate, then sit down to eat.

    I have observed well-dressed people with bad behavior, but I think it’s more likely that people who don’t show respect by wearing clothing that is appropriate for public places also fail to show respect for others with their behavior.

  23. Yawn.

    Restaurants routinely have dress codes. Try showing up at Per Se in flip-flops, gym shorts, and some loiud lkbnoxious T-shirt and see what happens.

    Plus’s, if you dress like a slob, you’ll be treated with all the respect that a bum garners. That’s simple hardwired human nature!

  24. Ben,

    You are not in the minority. People are too myopic to realise that if you do not define what “smart-casual” is you are in fact stepping into a minefield. The arbitrary enforcement may bring more trouble than it is worth.

    It is very disappointing that Qantas has not offered more transparency.

  25. Brian L. says

    February 12, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    The term “wifebeater,” when referring to a tank-top, has become so common today, that anyone offended over someone using it is probably the kind of person who goes around looking for things to be offended by. Get over it, people.

    Nick says

    February 12, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    +Brian L.

  26. Brian L. says

    February 12, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    The term “wifebeater,” when referring to a tank-top, has become so common today, that anyone offended over someone using it is probably the kind of person who goes around looking for things to be offended by. Get over it, people.

    Nick says

    February 12, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    +Brian L.

    As far as a common term – funny, I’m 58 years old never heard the term, so maybe it’s the kind of people I know and hang out with.
    Also, I don’t have to look for people who are insensitive, you folks just like to throw yourselves out there in our faces.

  27. Dress codes are never about apparel, they’re about keeping certain people out. If you’re slovenly and ‘undesirable’, the dress code will be the reason they deny you admittance. If you’re a celebrity, it won’t matter what you wear.

  28. I agree it’s vague – I wear yoga pants, fitted t shirts, and flip-flops often when I fly. I think I look more put together than a lot of travelers. Like the example of Madonna wearing a tank top vs. an overweight middle aged man wearing one…very, very subjective. Interested to see how this plays out.

  29. Jana says
    February 12, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    As far as a common term – funny, I’m 58 years old never heard the term, so maybe it’s the kind of people I know and hang out with.
    Also, I don’t have to look for people who are insensitive, you folks just like to throw yourselves out there in our faces.

    + thanks for the insightful comment

  30. I am almost 60 and have only heard the term “wifebeater,” when referring to a tank-top, a few times. As the generation that brought forth gender equality, I find it offensive as a subtle encouragement of domestic violence.

  31. Wearing one’s Seat 1A pajamas ?? in an airport ?? I’ve certainly missed out not doing that.

    Considering what goes for “dress code” at Walmart, well, Seat 1A pajamas in an airport is way overdressed.



  32. All this is really about is the snotty traditional high status members who can’t stand it because all the regulars guys who work in the mines and FIFO are making top status and they are having to share their space. I’m tired of snobs in the suits who think that what they wear makes them better than the rest of us. Give me a guy in shorts and flip flops drinking a can of beer rather than some snot in a $2k suit who thinks it’s appropriate to sit in the quiet area and blare away on skype or his cell phone because those rules don’t apply to him. It’s not what you are wearing but rather behaviour that defines class.

  33. My mom used to say that part of showing love and care for a spouse was to make sure their clothes were chosen to look their best. Not caring meant letting my dad choose his own.

    Personally, I believe that if one has enough money to holiday in exotic locations, one also has enough money to hire a consultant at any fashion store to select the styles and colors that best fit your body type.

  34. This is an utterly ridiculous idea. I’m very much with Ben firmly in the “who on earth cares what people wear, what matters is how they behave” camp. Personally I am a frequent solo business traveller who is accustomed to lounges and lounge ettiquette, and also happens to have neon pink hair and a habit of wearing knee high combat boots and the kind of clothing more usually worn in punk clubs (true story, I freelance in financial IT and my appearance is irrelevent).

    I don’t mean I’m half naked, just that I am not in any way in the category of smart casual because it rarely includes neon, or black velvet. I find the idea that I should have to tone down my appearance just so that people who use a lounge never have to see anyone who doesn’t dress like them frankly appalling, and that i what this boils down to. If they really do feel the need to impose a rule like this then they most definitely need to define it, and quite carefully.

  35. Woman here. Not purporting to speak for all of us, but I personally think that the term “wifebeater” to describe an article of clothing that was most commonly worn as an outergarmet by hicks of low sartorial and intellectual stature is actually feminism at its best.

  36. @Jana,

    I’m not dismissive of female sensibilities, but I have little patience for people who get offended unnecessarily.


    How the h**l did a word that is a disparaging term for a guy, roughly equivalent to “redneck”, morph into a subtle encouragement of domestic violence? Sorry, I’m not buying it.

    Now back to the subject of the post.

  37. Hey Ben, dont worry about “The guy in the suit that’s yelling at the top of his lungs on the cell phone”. As a suit is beyond smart or casual dress, he will not be allowed in the lounge any more 😉

  38. I wish I had been born in the 50’s, since I’m of the opinion that there should be dress standards on all classes, not just the premium classes. My entire childhood was spent having to get into ‘Sunday best’ in order to fly since we were on Staff ID90 tickets. If appearances didn’t matter (since the only ones who know that you’re on staff travel are the flight attendants), then the airlines wouldn’t care how you dressed. Even now when I have the chance to relax in the back of the aircraft and make use of staff travel, I still have to wear a collared shirt, smart trousers and acceptable shoes.
    I think most people don’t realise just how horribly some people here in Australia dress. I admit even I wear ratty board shorts out most days when I’m just running errands, especially when it’s hot. But when you’re sharing an intimate space with several people over the course of a few hours, then it’s nice to not be confronted with their stomach showing, hairy legs/arms/whatever, mangled toenails, etc.

  39. On my last trip back from Thailand (as part of the Milan/Bangkok mistake fare) I enjoyed coming straight from the beach on my last day, to the Phuket airport (business class Dragon Air) to the 1st Class Cathay Lounge in Hong Kong still wearing my swimsuit. I of course enjoyed the cabana to shower and change before the flight though, after a nice meal and a few drinks.

  40. Love this topic…

    The whole issue stems from the all too common idea today in America, that attire seen at Walmart is now considered “smart casual” by so many. Ugh! Like it or not, how you dress reflects how you are perceived by others, and Qantas can do whatever it wants in its lounges.

    Personally, I care little about your dress code, but really hate the loud mouth business suit in the lounge, or the idiot with her bare feet on the bulkhead or seat behind you!

    Also love all the “offense” taken – as noted in the numerous posts above – by people who seem to get “offended” by almost anything idiotic these days!

  41. I’m pro-dress code. If I’m paying $$ or miles for business or first class, using a corresponding lounge, or staying in a posh hotel, I expect the atmosphere to be better than what I experience out on the street. Driving me crazy lately are the large numbers of women who wear leggings as pants, most of whom are simply too fat to wear them. I wear those things to sleep in! So to me they are wearing pajamas out in public. Thank god the trend of super low hip huggers is fading away and we’re not assaulted by butt cracks 24×7. I also despise sandals on men anywhere but in the most casual environments. Sorry guys!

    Not to stir the pot, but I’m a mature female and I’m not bothered at all by the term “wifebeater” referring to a man’s under-tank. I learned the term many years ago from a guy who had been in prison. He had a very humorous vocabulary. I remember “Marcia Bradys”, the cloth shoes the inmates are provided when they first enter prison.

  42. I tend to agree with it. I don’t want to sit next to someone in a lounge wearing a singlet (not sure what the American word for a singlet is), as Australians are prone to doing. It may seem kind of arbitrary, but it’s a way of signalling to guests that not anything goes – in terms of behaviour as well. So the man in the suit yelling down the phone (this annoyed me at my last Business lounge) should also be “policed”.

  43. Well I wear sweatpants and sweatshirts at almost all the time. I wear flip-flops when I am on an airplane, regardless of which class i am travelling in.

  44. I think we can assume that even enforced, Australian Smart Casual will let a lot slide, however with air being the main source of travel Aussie lounges, especially the domestic in Brisbane, Sydney & Melbourne, tend to get very busy, so I wonder if this will be a way of controlling numbers like clubs do when they get busy “No sir sorry your shoes are not acceptable, please move along”.

    I tend to agree with @Malc

    Applying a dress code might not just be to ensure that only the most fashionable of blue “wifey and pluggers” get through, but to have a behaviour and hygiene standard as well. I have had some shockers lately when it comes to body hygiene, especially with the humidity that has been around lately, and while when travelling we can’t all be fresh, I think when you are forced to put a little effort into your appearance you tend to put a little more effort into your hygiene as well, and if not, please bring at least some mints and some deodorant so I’m not reaching for the supplement oxygen.

  45. Jill and Jana, sorry, I didn’t know the two of you represented all women. My apologies for laughing when I read Lucky’s use of a term I have heard women use much more frequently than men.

    Can I be offended you both live under a rock? Or better yet, that you are both so easily offended?

    Peace out.

  46. I am in southern California and wear short and tee shirt all year around.. I don’t like to wear pants period and not gonna put one on to go into lounge. And I am not gonna put on 25k Rolex to travel overseas either. I put on $200 Casio and I am comfortable. If I am going to event ,sure I will put on my Italian suit, shoes ,belt,wallet and rolex etc.. When I am flying just want to be comfortable on the plane. Etiquette is more important not what you are wearing..

  47. The last time I was in the Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa & Thai First Lounges I was on my way to/from Bali so I was wearing board shorts, sandals and a t-shirt. I get that there were a lot of business types in suits on their way to do whatever people with jobs do, but I was quite literally on my way to the beach so I was dressed like it.

    btw, “wifebeater” is kind of an awful term for an article of clothing, but I don’t know another good term for it. A “tanktop” is not at all the same thing. Tank tops are loose fitted and meant as outerwear. “Undershirt” is not accurate. When people say undershirt I think of a plain white t-shirt.

    The actual term for a wifebeater (according to the label) is an A-Shirt, which is something I have never in my life actually heard anyone call it. If I actually called it an A-Shirt people would think I was an alien.

  48. Long time reader, first time commenter here.

    In my opinion, it is a good idea. Football/hockey (Soccer for our US friends) jerseys/shirts in the lounge? Please step out sir. Short shorts and flip flops? There’s the door. Hoodies with offensive stamps? You guessed it.

    I am sure airlines will not be throwing out people in jeans or anything similar, so I am puzzled as to why people are against a baseline dress code, as long as it is not strict i.e. tuxedos only.

  49. As long as they don’t ban cargo shorts or neutral-color sweatpants, I’m cool with it. I wear suits all day at work and prefer to travel in comfort when possible.

  50. Sweatpants/yoga pants/flip flops isn’t casual. It’s just lazy. Not saying people need to be in suits (unless you’re heading directly to or from a business meeting), but smart casual doesn’t mean looking like someone off to Walmart.

    “It’s funny to me because airlines actually encourage you to wear pajamas on the plane, which aren’t “smart, casual,” I’d think.”

    Pajamas are so that people don’t wrinkle their clothes during hours of sitting in a seat, more than anything. Of course, this is more for people in first these days, since so few airlines offer pajamas for business class. If they do want people in the business class lounge to dress up more, then maybe they should offer pajamas for business class passengers?

  51. @Heather,
    +1 totally agree. I’m 68, knew immediately what Ben meant (quite the visual, lol) and cannot imagine being offended as a woman by use of this term. Now if I were a man wearing one, that might be another matter, lol. Off topic, but the PC police are out there, ready, willing, and able to destroy you for hapless comments on social media.

  52. “Many of us don’t need to wear “smart, casual dress” for work so do they expect us to go to the airport according to their dress code?”

    I happen to be my own boss and while I don’t require myself or my employees in the office to wear what most would call “smart, casual dress”. That said, I do wear it- and encourage my staff- to wear it when flying. This is especially the case if flying in first or business class.

    I’m not one of the 1% (before taxes and excluding per diem, my salary is around $70K a year) but the reason I prefer lounges is simply to give myself a quiet place to retreat to when the knuckle dragging section of society becomes too much. There’s nothing worse than being worn out and a loud jackass in a “F**K YEAH ‘MURICA” hat, his snotty trailer trash wife and their gaggle of ill-behaved human shaped crotch fruit making an airport restaurant, bar or gate area unlivable. Well, at least unbearable for anyone who does not think “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo!” showcases the best this country has to offer. I want somewhere I can escape these troglodytes and if a dress code adds another level of protection from dealing with them, then I am all for it.

  53. @Jill

    Hi Jill, Maybe it’s a regional or generational thing, but I will share that I am 43..I was raised in Toronto Canada and now live in Orange County CA…and I have heard the term ‘wife beater’ used to describe an under shirt as long as I can remember. Although, in my 20’s I did hang out in a lot of punk rock and other types of dive bars. 🙂

    I don’t find the use of the word ‘offensive’, but I also don’t find terms like ‘redneck’ or ‘white trash’ particularly offensive either . Everyone has different levels of sensitivity . e.g. there are certain cultures and places where even wearing the aforementioned shirt would be potentially offensive .

  54. @Jana

    “Sorry if you are offended, but the reality is that you’re comment is somewhat dismissive of female sensibilities.”

    I assure you that I am very much a woman and this is not a ‘sensibility’ issue to me. It might be a ‘sensitivity’ issue but on that note it’s completely left to the prerogative of each reader/commenter.

    Almost everything, even what is generally thought to be an innocuous well wishing such as “Merry Christmas” can cause someone offense. Is the remedy not to say it rather than run the risk of potentially offending someone?

    Ironically, even your own statement that I quoted, acknowledges that you said something that you recognized that someone could possibly take offense to, but said it anyway because you believe that conveying your opinion is more important than pandering to someone else’s potential sensitivities. And in my opinion, that is completely fine…, but I don’t see why everyone else should be held to a higher standard in that regard.

  55. Seems a little absurd to require “smart casual” for transpac flights. If I’m flying for work, and sleeping on a plane in Business class, I sure as shit am not wearing my suit on to the plane. Usually I only take a few suits, and one set of casual clothes (cargo pants and t-shirt for sleeping on plane). I want to crash on the plane immediately after take off, and changing in a tiny lav (especially a shitty Qantas business lav) does NOT seem appealing to me. It seems a little absurd that my $14,000 ticket won’t get me into the lounge.

    How would everyone feel if Emirates started requiring birqas for all the female passengers on their planes in order to make their passengers more presentable?

  56. Qantas staff are now fashion police. As a club member the first I heard of this code was tonight. Brisbane Qantas club thanks for a not so great start to the evening. Seems an ankle length flowing dress and shawl is not good enough for their fashion police – not allowed entry due to sandals made out of yep rubber. So after being offered a size 10 mans shoes by the club (iam a ladies 6) iam not convinced the shoes I can’t walk in are any more stylish than my rubber sandals! But to add insult to my well appointed and conservative attire I see people dressed much more ‘casual’ than me and it seems even a live dog in a ladies handbag is more welcome than iam. So Qantas dress code thumbs down today ! Either get it right or ditch it. Or watch as your customers decide to move to virgin.

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