(NEXSTAR) — For many of us, flying is a relatively easy experience. Your flight leaves on time, your seatmates are polite, and you arrive at your destination safely.
But, in some cases, one of those aspects of flying may not go exactly as planned. You may find one of your fellow flyers committing an air travel faux pas: being barefoot.
You’ve seen the photos online of people’s toes peeking out between the seats. Maybe you’ve encountered it yourself. Either way, it’s largely frowned upon. In some cases, barefoot flying can even get you grounded.
Within its contract of carriage, United Airlines considers being barefoot, as well as being “not properly clothed,” an offense that justifies “refusal or removal of a passenger.” The carrier lists it as one of the many infractions that could impact safety for the passenger or others on the plane.
American Airlines says bare feet “aren’t allowed” from passengers, adding that “violent” or “inappropriate actions” could prevent you from boarding, being removed from the terminal, or facing legal prosecution.
Delta Airlines also warns that it can “refuse to transport or may remove passengers from its aircraft” if the passenger is barefoot. A barefoot passenger may be prohibited from boarding the plane, or may be forced to leave the plane, according to Spirit Airlines’ contract of carriage.
Frontier Airlines says it can refuse service to a passenger who is over the age of 3 and barefoot, “unless required to be barefoot for medical reasons.” Southwest Airlines and JetBlue state in their contracts of carriage that they can refuse to let a passenger fly if they are barefoot and older than five years of age, unless required due to a disability.
If these warnings from airlines aren’t enough to sway you from taking off your shoes while flying, maybe consider how many other people have also taken their shoes off on a plane – and what else has touched the floor.
“I would never fly barefoot on a plane,” a veteran flight attendant for a major carrier told Nexstar. “Passengers these days can be quite messy and we see everything from spills to dirty diapers thrown on the floor.”
Planes are tidied between flights, she explains, but the floors won’t be cleaned “unless there is a major mess.” That includes floors in the bathroom, too.
“That is most likely not water on the floor,” she adds. “Think of old men and young boys trying to aim in turbulence. Not good. Also, people love to throw trash anywhere but in the bathroom trash can so it usually ends up on the floor.”
If you still want to take your shoes off, she recommends bringing an old pair of socks to wear, then throwing them away after the flight.
United, American, Delta, Spirit, Frontier, JetBlue, and Southwest did not respond to Nexstar’s request for comment or its inquiry into whether any passengers have been removed or barred from flying over being barefooted.
Barefoot flyers are likely among the least of many airlines’ concerns. Over the last three years, airlines have reported record-setting incidents of disruptive passengers. That includes passengers accused of assaulting flight crews, opening emergency doors, and refusing to wear masks during the height of the COVID pandemic.
More recently, a Las Vegas-bound flight was forced to divert to Denver after an apparent fight broke out between some passengers. Two women were escorted off the plane, according to a passenger that captured video of the incident.
Causing a disturbance on a plane is a federal crime, and unruly passengers can face criminal prosecution or even fines.