Why You Should Think Twice About Wearing Leggings On An Airplane

Traveling via airplane is no longer a simple matter in any regard. You'll need to arrive at the airport several hours before your flight is scheduled to depart. You'll be restricted in the items you can bring with you onto the plane, and you'll have to face an onslaught of security measures, beginning with body scanners and escalating in invasiveness from there if a potential concern is detected. Now, you can add your travel wardrobe to the list of things to worry about when planning a trip.


Leggings may be many women's go-to clothing item when it comes to comfort and versatility, which is exactly what you're likely looking for when facing a long day of flying and layovers. As it turns out, however, there are several legitimate reasons why you should never choose leggings when you're planning your outfit for air travel. Now, let's break down what you need to know about why leggings and flying don't mix. 

Medical concerns

Flying always carries the risk of deep vein thrombosis — blood clots deep in the veins of the legs — especially for women who are on birth control or hormone replacement therapy (via the CDC). Once these clots form, they have the potential to travel to the lungs, which is known as a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires immediate intervention for the best chances of successful treatment.


Part of reducing your chances of developing deep vein thrombosis or a pulmonary embolism while traveling on an airplane involves avoiding clothing that is tight or restrictive, like leggings. Wearing tight clothing can restrict your overall circulation, which elevates your risk of developing blood clots. The only exception to this rule is compression stocking, which can actually prevent blood from pooling and clotting in your lower legs. Otherwise, always opt for clothes that are loose-fitting, free-flowing, and comfortable even during long periods of sitting. 

Fire safety

The vast majority of leggings are made out of stretchy, synthetic materials like nylon and spandex. When ignited or exposed to extremely high temperatures, these materials can melt in a similar fashion to plastic. In the event of a plane engine malfunction that results in a fire, synthetic leggings are likely to melt to your skin, causing very severe burns. These fabrics can also emit toxic fumes and excess smoke when ignited, potentially exposing you and everyone around you to carcinogens and the dangerous implications of smoke inhalation.


When you're planning to fly, select loose-fitting clothing items made out of natural fabrics like cotton, wool, or linen. In the unfortunate event of a fire, these materials will not melt and are much easier to remove from your skin once they've ignited, reducing the potential severity of your burns. They also won't produce excessive amounts of smoke or emit carcinogens into the air, leaving you and everyone around you healthier in the long run. Plus, there's no denying that you can stay comfortable in other materials! 


Due to decreases in cabin pressure, many people will experience abdominal bloating and gas during and up to a week after flying on an airplane. If you're wearing tight, compressive clothing like leggings, you could be in for a very uncomfortable experience. Adding pressure to an expanding gas-filled digestive tract can result in slowed digestion, severe abdominal pain, and even fainting. 


Unfortunately, that isn't all. Many leggings, especially those considered to be cute or fashionable, are constructed out of synthetic fabrics like metallics and faux leathers that don't allow your skin to breathe. When you combine these materials with long periods of sitting, you can encounter overheating and excessive sweating that can lead to extreme discomfort and embarrassing sweat marks or body odor. If you have sensitive skin, you may even develop textile dermatitis in the form of a painful, itchy rash or inflammation that could contribute to ingrown hairs or infected boils, according to a study published in Current Treatment Options in Allergy. Ouch!

Airline bans

In 2017, United Airlines barred two young girls from boarding their flight due to the fact that they were wearing leggings (via New York Daily News). In the days that followed, there was a major uproar on social media, accusing the company of sexism. The airline responded, clarifying that its no-leggings policy only applies to employees or the relatives of employees — known as pass riders — who fly for free or at a steeply discounted rate. Other airlines were found to have similar internal bans in place.


While there don't appear to be any current leggings bans in place for the general public, if you're flying as an airline employee or utilizing any type of friends and family discount program, the airline's internal dress code may apply to you. If this is the case and you've chosen to proceed with wearing leggings on your flight despite the risk to your safety and comfort, consider that you could be prevented from boarding the plane if you violate these rules.

Ultimately, leggings are cozy, but they may not be the best airport staple some believe them to be. With all of these reasons considered, we might stick to sweatpants or our favorite baggy jeans from now on.