Does United Airlines have the right to kick teens off for wearing leggings?

News of United Airlines’ decision to bar two teen girls from their flight from Denver to Minneapolis because they were wearing leggings spread quickly on Sunday, sparking outrage on social media and a swift defense from the airline.

A United Airlines plane takes off from San Francisco International Airport.

Here’s the deal: Under normal circumstances, leggings are permitted for passengers. But because the teens were traveling under an employee travel pass, meaning they were flying for free or sharply reduced rates because someone they know is an employee, the dress code was different for them. In addition to prohibiting form-fitting lycra/spandex tops, pants and dresses for pass travelers, sleepwear, flip-flops and miniskirts are also prohibited for anyone flying on a pass.

“We would ask the same of pass riders who were wearing flip-flops or who were wearing clothing that revealed their undergarments or torn, tattered jeans,” United spokesman Jonathan Guerin told the Associated Press.

 Airlines have long instituted stricter standards for pass travelers, but should those standards to be applied children and teenagers? Many on Twitter didn’t think so.
“She’s forcing them to change or put dresses on over leggings or they can’t board. Since when does @united police women’s clothing?” tweeted Shannon Watts, @shannonrwatts, who witnessed the incident at the airport. She also noted that one of the girls’ fathers was permitted to board the plane wearing shorts.
As news of the incident spread, celebrities also weighed in.
“We here at @united are just trying to police the attire of the daughters of our employees!” actor/comedian Seth Rogen tweeted. “That’s all! Cool, right?”
Still, United has stood by its decision, responding repeatedly to those asking questions with: “United shall have the right to refuse passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage.”

Lonely Planet CEO on the brand’s storied past, evolving future

Since it was founded in 1973, Lonely Planet has become one of the best-known travel publishers in the world, printing more than 130 million guidebooks in 13 languages. But with a brand’s online presence more important now than ever, how has Lonely Planet managed to stay true to the company’s founding principles while also keeping up with the times?

Last week, we got the chance to ask Daniel Houghton, the 28-year-old Nashville-based CEO of Lonely Planet, that question and some others prior to his SXSW speaking event, titled “Guiding an Iconic Travel Brand in the Digital Age.”

American-Statesman: How does it feel to be speaking at SXSW?

Houghton: It’s an awesome stage for the brand. It’s an incredible audience and gathering to be able to share what we’re up to. I’ve been to SXSW once before, in 2014, just experience it. It’s a really cool privilege to speak.

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Lonely Planet CEO Daniel Houghton pictured at the Four Seasons before his SXSW talk last week. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

What do you hope to convey at your SXSW talk?

I want to talk about our history, like why are we iconic? There’s a lot of old companies, but we’re kind of an old famous company. A lot of the things we’ve been doing for a really long time are not only still important, but maybe more important than ever, like our editorial principles and the way we gather content around the world. I want to talk about where we came from, what we’re doing now, how we’re trying to craft this content, this brand, with all the different platforms you can distribute on these days. I went to school to be a photojournalist, so that’s always been my passion — content creation. Outside of LP I’m fascinated by different strategies. We’re working hard to distribute across a range of platforms. Stuff changes every day. That’s kind of what the talk is about. What do we keep the same? What do we change? What kinds of products are we building? Travel is a really broad category.

What have been some of your key initiatives as CEO?

Building a set of products that we’re really proud of around just an incredible amount of content that we have that was never utilized enough. Some of that’s because new things have become available. It’s so interesting the way you can interact with people, whether it’s through social media or through a video online. We’ve started adding a lot of video content to our website. Part of it has been getting the platforms we’re already on to a point we’re really proud of, and a lot of it has been asking what new initiatives do we want to partake in, and whether that’s a tool for people who are traveling or more of an inspiration? Maybe I’m not even going anywhere right now but I’d love to be inspired. Travel to us is a really broad category. It’s culture and food and history. We’ve always covered that type of content, but this gives you an opportunity to interact with people on a much more frequent basis than just, “We saved all this money, we’re going on a trip.” We want to touch people much broader than that.

What advice do you have for people who are afraid to travel due to the current political climate?

We’ve always tried to just take an informational, fact-based approach and stay out of the rest of it. We’re really just trying to provide accurate information for people who are traveling. For us, we’ve got 500 titles, we’re covering virtually every place in the world, so maybe we’re more used to this than other people. Obviously the conversation has been really elevated, but we deal with border closings and openings all the time. We try to just think, what would you need to know, if you were going, to be informed? We approach everything from that mindset.

Where are your favorite places to travel?

I just got back from Colombia, I was in Bogota for a couple days. That place is fascinating. I didn’t get to spend enough time there. And I love the outdoors, so I’ve only been to New Zealand once, but I’d kill to go back there.

Why did you want to work for Lonely Planet?

I grew up traveling. I love travel. It’s in our family. Both my parents worked for the airlines their whole careers — that’s how they met, on a trip in Colorado. Going to the airport was a very normal occurrence for me as kid, whether it was to go pick up my mom, who was a flight attendant, or if were going somewhere. We were always traveling as a family, and I really got into photojournalism because I thought, “There’s a way to travel.” It makes sense that I wound up doing something with travel.

Where is the brand headed?

We really want people, whenever they think of travel, we really want Lonely Planet to come to mind. Whether they’ve seen our video content or they follow us on social media or they’re a subscriber to our magazine, we’re trying to build a whole ecosystem around the brand. Travel can be a very broad category. We just want to have a part in all of that.

You became CEO at the age of 24. Did you face any difficulties because of your age?

I don’t really feel like I’ve been treated differently. I can’t speak highly enough for the people in the business. We’ve got a lot of people who came to Lonely Planet very early in their careers, or it was their first job, and they have been here for a long time. We’re not very traditional in terms of structure and levels. Maybe that benefited me out of the gate.

What was the perception of Lonely Planet 20 years ago, and how is that changing?

There was maybe a perception 20 years ago that it was for rugged backpacking types, like I can turn up in Bali with $5 and just wing it. The truth is, you can talk to our founders about that, that was never the intention. I get asked, “What is your demographic?” and it’s a really hard question to answer because it’s incredibly diverse, both around the world and in terms of age brackets. We’ve got people that have been fans of us for 30 years, and those people still use printed products, but the idea that (something is for you) based on your age, I don’t think any of that really exists anymore. We don’t think about our content as for some specific audience. We really think about it for anyone who’s going to be traveling. What do you want to know? What’s the culture like in a place? Here’s the logistical things that are handy, here’s some experiences we think are really unique and off the beaten path.

How climbing Mount Everest taught photographer Cory Richards to be real

Cory Richards Snapchatted his way to the top of Mount Everest.

Last May, the 35-year-old climber and National Geographic photographer launched a brilliant social media campaign focused on his journey to the highest point on earth. Through raw and real 15-second clips, he gave his followers a candid look at what it really takes — the good and the bad — to accomplish a feat like this.

So what happened when he reached the top and prepared to take his final Snap? His phone died.

“Some things maybe just shouldn’t be Snapped,” said Richards during his hourlong keynote speech at SXSW on Friday afternoon. “There’s some poetic justice in that. I stayed up there for three minutes and I was very, very scared. I was thinking, ‘This is as close as I’m ever going to get to space.'”

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Climber and visual storyteller Cory Richards speaks at South by Southwest at the Austin Convention Center on Friday, March 10, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Despite its anticlimactic finale, what the Snapchat-Everest project taught him is that life is better, and people respond better, when it’s authentic rather than manufactured.

“(Before),” he said, “social media had me in a death spiral of comparison.”

His keynote doubled as a narrated photo essay of some of his excursions to places like Pakistan and Indonesia. He detailed a trip to Myanmar where he encountered a terrifying mode of transport called a “death train” and woke up one day with 50 spider bites.

“Great adventure is really just a hook to talk about the things that matter, like science,” he said. “In the field, I felt completely satiated.”

At home, however, he found it was becoming more and more difficult to satisfy his need for adventure. He was also grappling with PTSD from surviving an avalanche.

“I started to hate coming home. I wasn’t stimulated. I was bored. I had to sit in the silence. I felt like the darkness inside of me had erupted and now was the darkness all around me,” he said. “The idea of being comfortable in my own skin was like speaking Japanese to me.”

Slowly, Richards started opening up to others, and found that, in doing so, he discovered himself. To conclude his keynote, he urged the audience to attempt to find their most authentic selves, too.

“How effective is it when you’re actually authentic? How much more do people connect when you stop putting the beautiful stuff up (on social media)?” he said. “All we have to do is be honest.”

Call yourself a Texan? Make sure these spots are on your Texas travel bucket list

Editor’s note: This article was originally published for Texas Independence Day.

Hooray, it’s Texas Independence Day! The day we Texans indulge in queso and barbecue and celebrate the fact that we get to live in the greatest state (and former country) in the country.

There’s no better way to pay tribute to our wonderful, diverse, beautiful state than to travel to its far reaches. Whether you pay homage to Whataburger at its flagship store in Corpus Christi or pose for a selfie at Cadillac Ranch, the experiences you have on Texas soil will stay with you forever.

Here are 15 experiences that every Texan should have on their travel bucket list. But of course it’s only a sample. Something we missed? Let us know in the comments. And also be sure to check out our list of 180 things we love about Texas, from George Strait to Buc-ee’s.

1. Watch a sea turtle hatchling release in South Padre Island.

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A baby sea turtle scampers into the sea on South Padre Island. credit: Sea Turtle Inc.

Because baby turtles! Sea Turtle Inc. hosts public releases on South Padre Island at dawn on certain days mid-June through August. Padre Island National Seashore also offers public releases during the same season.

2. Climb Enchanted Rock.

Patty Williamson of Lizard Dreaming Yoga in Fredericksburg leads a sunset sun salutations yoga class on top of Enchanted Rock. credit: Tom McCarthy Jr. for American-Statesman

Climbing to the top of this hulking granite dome is a rite of passage for any true Texan. When you’re done, reward yourself with a beer at nearby Luckenbach, where “everybody’s somebody,” then settle in for a night at Starry’s Studio in Fredericksburg.

3. Sip a float at the Dr Pepper Museum.

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Adrieanna Macias makes a soda float in the soda fountain at the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco. credit; Statesman file photo

I’m a pepper? You’re a pepper! Whoever you are, don’t miss your chance to celebrate Texas’ favorite soda at this beloved Waco museum. While in Waco, check out the incredible Waco Mammoth National Monument and say hello to the elephants at Cameron Park Zoo.

4. Scale Guadalupe Peak.

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Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas. credit: Mike Leggett

At 8,751 feet, Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park is the highest natural point in the state. Which means that if you climb to the top, you get the bragging rights of having been to the “Top of Texas.”

5. Pitch a tent at Big Bend National Park.

South Rim vista at Big Bend National Park.
South Rim vista at Big Bend National Park. credit: Reine Wonite for National Park Service

There’s nothing better than a long weekend getting back to nature at Big Bend. Also on your to-do list while you’re there: climb Emory Peak, hike the South Rim Trail and soak in the Boquillas Hot Springs.

6. Snap a photo at Cadillac Ranch.

View of the 10 Cadillacs that are buried in a wheat field outside Amarillo at the famous Cadillac Ranch. credit: Statesman file photo

Even if you don’t think you know about Cadillac Ranch, you actually do — it’s the Amarillo art installation that features colorful Cadillacs jutting up from the ground. While in Amarillo, make sure to go mountain biking at nearby Palo Duro Canyon and stop for dinner at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, where anyone who can finish their 72-ounce steak in less than an hour will get it for free.

7. Get fitted for a pair of boots at RJ’s, then stay to see the rest of Houston.

Opened in 1987, the Menil Collection features many of the more than 17,000 works from the private collection of John and Dominique de Menil.

Rocky Carroll, a second generation bootmaker, has worked with everyone from the Bush family to Dolly Parton, and he’d be glad to make you a unique pair, too. While you’re in Houston, drop by the amazing new Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, carve out some time for the Menil Collection and stop for lunch at the original Ninfa’s on Navigation.

8. Bike the Galveston Island seawall.

Get a workout and see the sights with a bike ride along the Galveston seawall. credit: Kim Christensen Photography

Sure, it’s 10 miles long, but who cares when the ground is flat and the ocean is your backdrop? Bonus points for grabbing a shake at La King’s Confectionery, traipsing through the submarine at Seawolf Park or catching some beads on Fat Tuesday — Galveston has one of the best Mardi Gras celebrations in the country.

9. Bask in the glory of the flagship Whataburger.

Harmon Dobson opened the first Whataburger in Corpus Christi.

There’s a flagship Whataburger store in Corpus Christi. And it comes with oceanfront views, a bronze statue of founder Harmon Dobson and even an elevator. Can you imagine a better place to enjoy your Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit? Didn’t think so. Oh, and on a more somber note, while you’re in Corpus Christi also be sure to stop by the Mirador de la Flor statue, which honors “queen of Tejano music” Selena Quintanilla-Pérez.

10. Remember the Alamo (and salute Phil Collins).

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No San Antonio trip is complete without a tour of the Alamo, the most-visited site in Texas. credit: Mauri Elbel

Seeing the Alamo and marveling at how small it really is is a must for any Texan. But this time when you go, be sure to rock out to your favorite Phil Collins power ballad on the way, because the British superstar also just happens to be a huge Alamo fanboy. Seems against all odds, right? (See what we did there?) It’s not. He even donated his gigantic collection of Alamo and Texana artifacts to the Texas General Land Office, which will display the collection in a few years as part of a new Alamo museum.

11. Dance the night away at Garner State Park.

Garner State Park is popular in part because of its location on the Frio River. credit: J. Griffis Smith/TxDOT

Garner State Park’s idyllic location along the Frio River has long made it one of the most popular parks in the state, but to truly experience it you have to attend one of its famous summer dances, held nightly June-August.

12. Tube (or toob) the Comal.

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Tubers float down the Comal River. credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman

There’s nothing better than a summer’s day spent floating the river. After, grab a bite at the Gristmill, then catch some live music at Gruene Hall. Don’t forget to schedule an annual trip to Schlitterbahn, either.

13. Go deep sea fishing in Port Aransas.

A year-round destination, Port Aransas is known for stellar fishing, both deep sea and bay. credit: Port Aransas CVB

Then find a restaurant to cook your catch. Also don’t miss the ferry ride to St. Jo island for an afternoon, a drink along the water at Virginia’s, dinner at Shells or a sweet treat from Winton’s Candy Company. Extra credit if you time your trip with the annual Texas SandFest, which this year is April 21-23.

14. Stare up at the sky during a McDonald Observatory Star Party.

McDonald Observatory is known for its star parties.

Then head to nearby Marfa, where your must-do list includes seeing the Marfa lights, taking a photo at Prada Marfa, wandering the Chinati Foundation, stopping for groceries at The Get Go and spending a few nights at El Cosmico.

15. Attend a cattle drive in Fort Worth.

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The Fort Worth Stockyards feature twice-daily cattle drives. credit: Fort Worth CVB

We Texans love our kitschy cowboy culture, and what better way to embrace that than during a twice-daily cattle drive in the Fort Worth Stockyards? Complete the theme with dinner at Cattlemen’s Steak House, where you can pick out the exact steak you’d like to eat for dinner, and a nightcap at the Stockyards Hotel, where you can sip your spirits the way every true Texan should — from atop a saddle.