Should You Dress Up for Business or First Class Flights?

While many airlines don't have official dress codes, context is important to consider.
Josh Garber
By Josh Garber 

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If you've never flown business or first class before, you may be wondering if there is a dress code or if you need to dress up for your flights. If you're a seasoned traveler, you may have questions too. Is there such thing as business class fashion trends? Why are some passengers in suits while others are in sweatpants?

We're here to help.

Below, read our tips to help you decide what to wear on your next flight.

Flight dress codes

In general

Except when flying on a complimentary ticket given to you by an airline employee, most U.S. airlines don't have a published dress code for flyers to review.

One outlier is Hawaiian Airlines, which informs passengers to wait until they are off the plane to dress like they're at the beach.

The Hawaiian Airlines dress code states:

  • Clothing must cover the upper part of the torso, such as a tank or halter top.

  • Clothing must cover the lower part of the torso, such as shorts.

  • Passengers must wear footwear unless the guest cannot do so due to a disability or physical condition that prevents them from doing so.

Additionally, the dress code states that swimming attire is not allowed, so keep the board shorts in your checked baggage and wait until you get to the islands to don them.

Since airlines tend to provide little guidance on how to dress on their flights (except for passengers flying on an employee pass, which we'll talk more about below), you're pretty much on your own to decide what to wear on your flight. In general, we'd recommend following the Hawaiian Airlines dress code and, in addition, avoiding wearing clothing that may have offensive language on it.

For premium class tickets

But what about when you're flying business or first class?

Generally speaking, most airlines don't have a dress code for business or first-class travel.

Other outfit considerations for your next premium class flight

Consider the following when deciding whether or not to dress up on your next business or first-class flight.

Are you on a business trip paid for by your employer?

If you're on a business trip paid for by your employer, you may want to dress up more than you would if traveling for vacation. Part of the reason is you're representing the company you work for, and looking nice can reflect on your organization. In addition, your appearance may set a good impression on fellow passengers — which could, in turn, boost your company's image if you're asked why you're traveling.

Who are you traveling with?

Here are some examples of travel companions who might be worth dressing up for in business and first class.

  • Your boss or a fellow employee.

  • A significant other that you're trying to impress.

  • Expectant family members.

  • Fashionable friends that you don't want to disappoint.

So while it may be your style to wear sweatpants on super long-haul business or first-class flights, if you're traveling with a companion who shows up to the airport dressed to impress, you may want to wear something nicer.

Are you traveling for free with a ticket from an airline employee?

There is one scenario where airlines will often have a dress code for business or first-class passengers: When they fly for free on a ticket given to them by an airline employee. These tickets are often referred to as guest passes, and if you're flying on a guest pass, you should always check the rules of the airlines you're flying on.

For instance, Alaska Airlines has the following dress code for guest pass flyers (whether in economy or first class):

"The dress code on both Alaska and Horizon is casual, and the requirement is simply a neat and well-groomed appearance. Clothing that is soiled or tattered and bare feet are never acceptable. You are expected to use good judgment, but customer service agents will have the final authority to refuse travel for inappropriate attire or appearance."

Hawaiian Airlines has a different dress code for passengers flying on a guest pass in the main cabin, business or first class. While in the main cabin, guest pass passengers must not wear "excessively casual attire," in first and business class Hawaiian Airlines has the following rules:

  • Males (10 and older) should wear collared shirts, long pants and closed-toe shoes.

  • Women (10 and older) should wear business-appropriate blouses, skirts, slacks, dresses, and closed or open-toed dress shoes or sandals.

If you're flying on a guest pass, even if the airline you're flying doesn't have a stated dress code for business or first class, we'd recommend reaching out to the employee who gave you the pass to ask what you should wear on your flight.

So is there a first class dress code?

Generally not, but even if an airline doesn't have a dress code for business or first class, you should always consider the purpose of your trip, who you're traveling with, and whether you're flying for free on an employee guest pass before deciding what to wear.

Suppose none of those factors lead you to want to dress up for your business or first-class flight. In that case, we'd still recommend using general common sense and avoiding wearing clothing that exposes your torso or contains language that other passengers may deem offensive.

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