Saudia Denies Boarding To Male Passenger For Wearing Shorts

Yesterday Ben wrote about his plans to visit Saudi Arabia, noting it is a very conservative country and there would be a number of rules he would need to follow when there.

Many airlines have dress codes for their own airport lounges (it’s something Qantas is regularly in the news for), as well as dress codes for anyone travelling on staff travel. However most airlines do not specify much for what normal passengers should wear on board, provided it is not too revealing and does not have any offensive slogans.

Saudia has the following (fairly vague) dress code for passengers:

Saudia is requesting from their guests to abide by a dress code whereby they are clothed in a manner that is inline with public taste or not offensive to other passengers.

Ben has flown and reviewed Saudia before, although never entered the Kingdom (to the best of my knowledge).

Instead he has connected in Saudi Arabia each time.

Similarly, an American traveller by the name of Jordan Bishop, who writes for Forbes, was travelling on Saudia from Jakarta, Indonesia to Istanbul, Turkey, via Riyadh, a Saudia hub.

While Indonesia and Turkey are relatively conservative countries, they are not as conservative as Saudi Arabia is.

Mr. Bishop was wearing shorts as he went to board the flight from Jakarta to Riyadh, and was denied boarding by the Saudia gate staff because they said he was not dressed appropriately because his knees were showing.

He did not have any trousers/pants in his hand luggage, so was only able to board the flight by purchasing a sarong at an airport shop to wear on the flight.

He was then allowed on the flight with the sarong covering his knees, and says that he was told by gate staff that this was a regular occurrence with Saudia flights. He was allowed to wear the shorts during the flight, but had to be covered during boarding.

An older version of the Saudia dress code does specify males cannot wear shorts with their knees showing, but the current policy is the more vague version I’ve quoted above.

Bottom line

I have a few standard outfits I wear on flights, depending on the class, airline and destination. I wouldn’t generally wear the same thing on a one hour Air Asia flight as I would in a long haul Etihad first class flight.

Clean, comfortable, neat, dark, plain clothes work far better for me than a three piece suit ever would.

I rarely wear shorts on a plane unless it’s from one particularly hot leisure destination to another (like Phuket to Bangkok, especially on a low cost carrier). If I’m flying through the Middle East on a full service carrier, I would wear trousers/pants without even really thinking about it.

I wouldn’t have their dress code in mind (I’ve never read a dress code before a flight), but I would feel odd transiting an airport in the Middle East wearing shorts.

While they have a right to set their own dress code on their own aircraft, Saudia should definitely publish their dress code in specific detail, if exposed knees are considered inappropriate.

Do you wear shorts on a long haul flight?

(Hat tip to Live and Let’s Fly)

Comments

  1. James, I like how you wrapped up your thoughts here.

    Basically I agree, yes, Saudia should be clearer in their policy.

    However, the bigger issue here is how this (presumably) self-respecting man thought it appropriate to wear shorts on a flight, let alone a long haul offering.

  2. When in Rome. I can’t wait to visit Saudi Arabia and I’ll learn what I need to know, to be a refreshing welcome guest to people in my host country. This, from an out gay urban man from a very liberal city and background. But also a traveller.

    Situational awareness.

  3. Anton, what does self respect have to do with wearing shorts? That sounds pretty silly. What’s so inappropriate about wearing shorts? As long as you’re well dressed, I don’t really think wearing shorts has anything to do with it. You could wear flip-flops and still be well-dressed if you do it right. Respecting the policies of an airline is one thing but saying that it’s inappropriate to wear shorts in general is just silly. Long-haul offering as you said, short-haul offering, whatever it is, your statement is just kind of silly.

  4. Flown Saudia last february Fco/Cgk return c class, at gate in Rome passenger checked in before me was a dutch guy wearing short and loudly advised that boarding denied if no wearing proper long trousers. He doesn’t have with him and asked to buy in Rome duty free, at boarding he had a special mark on boarding pass to check if proper trousers wearing.
    At Cgk instead my colleague due hot time in city wearing a short too and planning to have showers and changing in lounge, same rule he had his boarding pass marked and checked several times before allowing on board, what weird was that on board some saudi men wearing bermuda, and when we asked crew member they answer not that clear just said that were in transit and no changing available, a sort of clear discrimination.
    Anyway apart this rule that can be easily followed i really enjoyed my flight with Saudia and not hesitate to fly with them again.

  5. obviously this is ridiculous policy. I do generally disapprove of wearing shorts in public (unless you’re at the beach or it’s 100 degrees — which it may have been in Jakarta or Riadh) but to have a policy against wearing shorts is idiotic.

  6. When saying you would feel odd transiting a Middle East hub wearing shorts you seem to (falsely) assume that the rest of the region is as conservative as SA.

    I’ve lived in Abu Dhabi for the past few months and wear shorts nearly every day and have never had any problems.

    Sounds like a uniquely Saudi Arabian issue as foreigners (and many locals) wearing shorts is exceedingly common in much of the Middle East.

  7. If airports and planes weren’t kept at warm temperatures, I would wear pants. As it is, I normally wear khaki shorts and a pullover shirt. It’s not like I’m wearing a fluorescent bathing suit.

  8. Anton, I’m self-respecting. I’m a 57-year old man. I’m retired. I pay cash for my tickets. And, for pants, I haven’t worn anything but shorts on a flight in about 15 years.

    On international flights, I only fly first class (except when F is not available, such as a recent flight SFO-IST on Turkish or ANA on BOM-NRT last month). In the last year, I have flown international F on Lufthansa, British, Air France, Singapore, Qantas, ANA, and Emirates. I’m in a polo shirt or other collared shirt, pressed khaki shorts (sometimes linen shorts), and loafers or boat shoes. I’m better dressed than many of the people on the plane, including the others in F. And despite being dress shorts, I don’t think any of my shorts cover my knees…they are cut right above my knees. The last time I knowingly strived to put on long pants was to tour the Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman 3 weeks ago…..but we were told we had to wear pants, even to cover our ankles.

    I don’t think any of this makes me a less-than self-respecting person.

  9. @fas,

    The key is that you said *YOU* don’t think shorts are inappropriate. Guess what? What you think isn’t what matters here. I can say I think any number of things that you do are in appropriate, and you can think the same of me. We don’t individually make the rules.

  10. Shorts are definitely frowned upon in the Kingdom. Most malls won’t let you in with shorts on.

    Personally I’m sympathetic to the airline policy (though admittedly it’s not clear).

    nunzio riva’s story above is funny. If I’m reading it correctly, a foreigner was prevented from boarding wearing shorts, but onboard there were several Saudis wearing shorts. That kind of double standard is typically Saudi.

  11. So Saudia have a dress standard? Good! Tired of seeing oversized baggy shorts on men and undersized leggings on women (or vice-versa!) anywhere – especially on a plane. Get some class people!

  12. This one is a bit absurd on the part of the airline, Saudi overdoes it to make the world think they’re the perfect example of Islam, most other Arab nations scoff at this crap from Saudi. I’m currently travelling in the ME and wore shorts on flight from Muscat to Dubai without issue. Similarly I’ve been in West Bank for the last few days wearing shorts all day and without issue. Granted, typical male dress code is jeans and t shirt I don’t see many in shorts those that are wear long cut shorts passed the knee (for prayer purposes this is required and as such becomes the usual default standard).

  13. You would be quite ignorant to not think about a dress code before flying to KSA with Saudia. Apart from that, you should take into account your fellow passengers…when you are sitting cramped in the economy class I don’t feel like a guy rubbing against my pants with his hairy legs. Keeping in mind that you are transiting through the Kingdom, you should adhere to the appropriate dress code during transit. Any sane person knows what is meant by ” Saudia is requesting from their guests to abide by a dress code whereby they are clothed in a manner that is inline with public taste or not offensive to other passengers”. Even though you can walk around with shorts in Dubai, be aware that also there a dress code applies. In most malls there are signs to remind the visitors about that. Greetings from Riyadh 🙂

  14. That policy is utterly absurd and there is absolutely nothing wrong with flying in shorts. I only fly up front (C or F) and when I anticipate being warm throughout the journey including plane changes, I wear shorts. I wear longer solid colored shorts and a collared polo shirt. I flew last week EZE-IAH-LAX in United Polaris and was not the only person in shorts either.

  15. I worked 10 years for an airline and always followed the staff dress code without discussion but must say it feels great to wear shorts or a track suit in C class now I’m paying my tickets.

  16. I think Saudia can and should enforce whatever policies they think fit as long as they are well published, unbiased, and applied to all customers without prejudice. For example, if women are not allowed to wear shorts I think it appropriate that men should also not be allowed to wear shorts.

    Personally, I would not fly Saudia because they have a no alcohol policy. I think quality drinks are one of the benefits of flying Business and First. Flyers have a choice among many air carriers. I don’t hold a grudge against Saudia for the no alcohol policy just as I don’t hold anything against them for the no shorts policy. I’m happy that there are other quality airlines from which to choose. To those who fly Saudia, be they passengers who have objections to alcohol or to wearing shorts or are simply willing to temporarily tolerate the policy, I’m happy that you have an airline that represents your personal choices.

  17. This rule is only when you are going to lay down on Saudi’s airports. I traveled from Los Angeles to Jeddah wore a short with no problem, but when I was getting another plane from Jeddah to another city in Saudi Arabia, I was forced to cover my knees to be able to board.

  18. It’s always better to wear long pants no matter where you fly to. I mean when was the last time an airline thoroughly clean the seat you are sitting in?

  19. I often walk in the tropics of Australia.Most men at work,even senior professionals,wear shorts to work.Those that wear trousers are often thought to be inappropriately dressed.

  20. Commercial flying isn’t luxurious unless you’re in First Class, so relax. Wearing shorts isn’t suppose to be a problem. I always travel in hot, tropical countries and everyone understands that shorts is no big deal. I don’t want to be traveling long haul in pants either. I’d rather not want to feel musty.

  21. @Kevin, maybe at 57 it’s probably too late to graduate to big-boy pants. But nice that you go to the trouble to press them! Makes them classy then, hey?

  22. @glennt. The reason you still slave away while Kevin is retired is likely your lack of ability to think for yourself. Appearance and other’s opinions seem to be too high on your priority list. You’ll get there one day, I hope.

  23. I wear shorts on any flight and to pretty much any occasion that isn’t ultra-fancy if it’s hot.

    Quite frankly, I think those who carefully follow imagined dress codes are pathetic. As long as it doesn’t impact on others (and giving fodder to judgemental snobs doesn’t count!), you should just wear whatever you want to wear.

  24. I think it is appropriate for the airline to set and enforce their own rules. Eveyone and every culture is different. I think it was either the Hilton Petaling, Hilton Singapore or Conrad Singapore, where they had strict dress codes to use the lounge. The point being in that in Southeast Asia where there are a lot of Muslims, the rules are more conservative. Men and women have to wear appropriate clothes or you will be turned away. I believe men and women are not allowed to wear shorts. Also, men cannot have any open-toe shoes, but women can. Their lounge and their hotel in a different country, so we should follow their rules.

  25. “The point being in that in Southeast Asia where there are a lot of Muslims, the rules are more conservative.”

    hahahahahaha – last ME flight I was on had a man and his three wives that berated the FA’s every chance they had. How is THAT not offensive/denigrative towards women?!?!?! Conservative? I think not!

    Please. If the airline wants you to wear pants, say wear pants. Then I can decide to fly them or not. If you say ‘offensive’, I think that man and his three very obnoxious wives that treated the FA’s like they were crap, qualifies as ‘offensive’. But, hey, none wore shorts. (eye roll)

    I wear shorts and I buy business or first. (And I would 100% if I flew coach.) If you say no shorts, no problem, I will buy elsewhere.

  26. The Wahabi kingdom is the stuff of nightmares. They’ve destroyed all of the historic relics of Mecca and turned it into some sort of sinister Disney World. No self-respecting gay man should fly Saudia as it’s financing the state-sanctioned oppression and execution of gay people.

  27. @J ~ err…. do I know you? No I don’t, so don’t make presumptions about me. FYI, I retired much earlier than Kevin, after having never slaved away for a day in my life, and amuse myself flying around the world whenever and wherever I want. As for shorts, except for the beach and suchlike I left them behind when I was about 13. You plainly don’t give a toss about your appearance, and I’m sure shorts are not the limit of your traincrash/trailerpark look.

  28. Any man who is older than 18 years should not wear shorts outside beach and swimming pool. Why grown up men want to be dressed like little boys?

  29. You would be surprised the number of people I see flying in legacy carriers airlines business class on shorts and flip flops and I do agree with you , look ridiculous. 10 thousand US. In a ticket and you can’t even put a standard social clothes. Planes are today the most advanced way of travelling and people should dress appropriately for it.

  30. Nice article James. As you know it’s almost unheard of to wear anything else but shorts whilst flying around Queensland on VA. Lol.

  31. Glenn T – There’s a distinct difference between caring about your appearance and being an arrogant, insufferable snob (to put it politely). You are the latter.

    Do I care what I look like? Absolutely. Do I care what judgemental scumbags think about what I look like? Absolutely not.

  32. I generally fly with shorts on, but I live in Florida, so unless it’s during our three weeks or so of “winter” I go with shorts. My general rule is that unless you’re going to work, a ceremony (wedding, funeral, etc), or a very upscale restaurant, nice shorts and a polo shirt or casual button-down should be fine. If I can play golf in it at a nice course, it should be good enough.

    (Conversely, I can’t play golf in a regular t-shirt or gym shorts even if the course allows them or if I’m only going to the driving range. Just seems wrong.)

  33. It would be nice if people would read the article befor they commented:

    “Mr. Bishop was wearing shorts as he went to board the flight from Jakarta to Riyadh, and was denied boarding by the Saudia gate staff because they said he was not dressed appropriately because his knees were showing.”

    So its not the shorts its the obscene look of knees.

    Yes above knee shorts is appropriate on the beach, in a tree cabin or any boy scout association or a social gathering like Oktober fest but for travelling come on, some dont like breast feeding women – I dont care, hairy guys in mankini – I do care, but a grown man knees that’s terrible – Bahamas is the exception from the rule.

    No I am not religious beside the Christian holydays.

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