Barefoot on Aircraft: Against the Law?

Does being barefoot on airplane = threatened with arrest?

Having been confronted by a flight attendant on a recent American Airlines flight from Costa Rica to Miami, FlyerTalk member richard learned that passengers aboard aircraft must wear shoes, according to regulations dictated by the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA. When richard informed the flight attendant that he was not aware of such a rule, the captain of the aircraft reportedly threatened him with arrest if he did not comply with the directive of the flight attendant.

The only problem is that there is apparently no such regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration.

What recourse does richard have, if any? Is air transportation becoming more “fascist,” as implied by richard?

7 thoughts on “Barefoot on Aircraft: Against the Law?”

  1. Brad says:

    its my understanding that the legality of this is around the FAA’s “passengers must comply with flight attendants” directive….if the flight attendant tells you to pat your head and rub your belly, and you refuse, you’re subject to arrest.

  2. Brad says:

    its my understanding that the legality of this is around the FAA’s “passengers must comply with flight attendants” directive….if the flight attendant tells you to pat your head and rub your belly, and you refuse, you’re subject to arrest.

  3. Myranya says:

    Richard is correct, the FAA does not have such a regulation. I do remember it being there at some point in the past. Contrary to for example the other common myth that there are laws against driving barefoot, I clearly recall seeing an FAA rule about all passengers excluding small children needing shoes to fly when I started going barefoot and did some research almost 15 years ago. However, the FAA has since removed it! Searches of the FAA site in more recent years have included a list of *recommendations only* about clothing, including low-heeled, canvas or leather shoes, but no longer singled out bare feet, and even more recently all footwear requirements for passengers have disappeared, except for such things as rules against gel inserts and the like (included in the regulations about liquids).

    Unfortunately many US airlines still have this rule as a *company* policy, and American does, unfortunately, see http://www.aa.com/i18n/customerService/customerCommitment/conditionsOfCarriage.jsp So even if the flight attendant was incorrect as to where the rule came from, and if the captain was perhaps over the top to threaten with arrest, there is indeed a rule that says barefoot passengers can be refused transport on American Airlines flights. I recommend doing a similar search for other airline companies; since the FAA removed the rules I heard it’s been struck from some US carriers’ policies as well. Now this last I didn’t personally verify and can’t recall which companies it applied to since I live in Europe & have only taken flights with European companies myself (KLM and EasyJet have NO anti-barefoot rule, and neither does the AEA!) but next time search the company sites before booking and try to find a barefoot-friendly carrier. On international flights you’ll probably have an easier time with a foreign company.

  4. Myranya says:

    Richard is correct, the FAA does not have such a regulation. I do remember it being there at some point in the past. Contrary to for example the other common myth that there are laws against driving barefoot, I clearly recall seeing an FAA rule about all passengers excluding small children needing shoes to fly when I started going barefoot and did some research almost 15 years ago. However, the FAA has since removed it! Searches of the FAA site in more recent years have included a list of *recommendations only* about clothing, including low-heeled, canvas or leather shoes, but no longer singled out bare feet, and even more recently all footwear requirements for passengers have disappeared, except for such things as rules against gel inserts and the like (included in the regulations about liquids).

    Unfortunately many US airlines still have this rule as a *company* policy, and American does, unfortunately, see http://www.aa.com/i18n/customerService/customerCommitment/conditionsOfCarriage.jsp So even if the flight attendant was incorrect as to where the rule came from, and if the captain was perhaps over the top to threaten with arrest, there is indeed a rule that says barefoot passengers can be refused transport on American Airlines flights. I recommend doing a similar search for other airline companies; since the FAA removed the rules I heard it’s been struck from some US carriers’ policies as well. Now this last I didn’t personally verify and can’t recall which companies it applied to since I live in Europe & have only taken flights with European companies myself (KLM and EasyJet have NO anti-barefoot rule, and neither does the AEA!) but next time search the company sites before booking and try to find a barefoot-friendly carrier. On international flights you’ll probably have an easier time with a foreign company.

  5. John Michaels says:

    All references to FAR 121 regulations listed so far here are correct. In no section does it list that you (passenger) must remain with your shoes on. The caveat to this however is that he was given an instruction to do something by a FA on duty which he must abide by. Failure to follow crewmember instructions is a federal offense. This is how they get you. The first “issue” I see with this is that the passenger actually flew on AA. Not my ideal airline choice for several reasons. Ego central for starters. It starts in their corporate culture and trickles down.
    A formal legal pursuit of a crewmember abusing his/ her power while in the conduct of his/ her inflight duties is in fact against the law as well. A lawyer whom is well versed in the Federal Aviation Regulations should be able to properly access the case and whether there is enough merit to continue.
    Like I said, I dont fly AA for many reasons. In my opinion, their product is marginal, service lacking dramatically, offerings substandard, crew attitudes are generally not very affable and they generally appear that they just got burned with another labor contract that they didnt like. If they dont like their jobs or cannot perform them at the highest standard, they should quit. Instead, they sit around and collect a paycheck in this dismal economy while we pay for it… Read Conde Nast Best of the Best…. Try another carrier next time, preferrably an INTERNATIONAL carrier where they respect your dollars. Our carriers here are light years behind. LIGHT YEARS

  6. John Michaels says:

    All references to FAR 121 regulations listed so far here are correct. In no section does it list that you (passenger) must remain with your shoes on. The caveat to this however is that he was given an instruction to do something by a FA on duty which he must abide by. Failure to follow crewmember instructions is a federal offense. This is how they get you. The first “issue” I see with this is that the passenger actually flew on AA. Not my ideal airline choice for several reasons. Ego central for starters. It starts in their corporate culture and trickles down.
    A formal legal pursuit of a crewmember abusing his/ her power while in the conduct of his/ her inflight duties is in fact against the law as well. A lawyer whom is well versed in the Federal Aviation Regulations should be able to properly access the case and whether there is enough merit to continue.
    Like I said, I dont fly AA for many reasons. In my opinion, their product is marginal, service lacking dramatically, offerings substandard, crew attitudes are generally not very affable and they generally appear that they just got burned with another labor contract that they didnt like. If they dont like their jobs or cannot perform them at the highest standard, they should quit. Instead, they sit around and collect a paycheck in this dismal economy while we pay for it… Read Conde Nast Best of the Best…. Try another carrier next time, preferrably an INTERNATIONAL carrier where they respect your dollars. Our carriers here are light years behind. LIGHT YEARS

  7. Ryan S says:

    I’ve read the stories on the Society For Barefoot Living site, unfortunate that my fellow barefooters have encoutered such difficulty.

    I have flown barefoot on American Airlines & American Eagle several times, round-trip without incident, although I had flips in my carryon just in case.

    The requirement to doff shoes at the TSA checkpoints makes for a conveneint excuse. Even received decidedly postive comments from TSA agents, such as that I’m “all set.”

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