If you want to start an engaging discussion among frequent flyers, ask them about dress codes for airport lounges – especially first class lounges – as well as in business and first class sections on the plane.
Some people feel that business travellers should be dressed to suit; although wearing an actual suit may be taking this to extremes.
Others argue that comfort trumps style, and suggest that having paid top dollar for a business class ticket means you can wear pretty much whatever you please.
But what do the airlines think? After all, it's their lounge and their plane. Are there specific fashion dictates if you're flying in business class compared to economy?
High Flyer asked an assortment of airlines to outline their dress codes for passengers sitting at the pointy end of the plane.
“Qantas suggests a neat, casual attire for all passengers,” a spokesperson for the airline told High Flyer.
“A minimum dress standard applies for all passengers regardless of the cabin they are in, which is a t-shirt or singlet that doesn't display offensive language and/or image, shorts and footwear.”
While Virgin Australia doesn't have a dress code specifically for business class, the airline's minimum dress requirement for all passengers requires footwear (even if that's just a pair of thongs), “suitable clothing that covers your bottom half” and a shirt, although “singlets are acceptable”.
As with the Red Roo, Virgin doesn't permit “clothing that displays offensive language or symbols”.
“If you do not meet our minimum dress requirements, you will be denied travel until you are dressed appropriately,” the airline warns.
International airlines seemed less concerned on the subject of what to wear in the air.
“British Airways does not enforce a dress code for passengers in any travel class," a BA spokesperson told High Flyer, while Cathay Pacific confirmed “we do not have dress codes for business class flights and lounges”.
Singapore Airlines said “we generally accept customers as long as their dressing does not contravene any indecency laws”.
Emirates Airlines follows similar practice, with a spokesperson advising High Flyer that “while there is no formal dress code in any cabin, we do appreciate that appropriate clothing for travel is worn”.
So it seems that almost any clothing within reason and the bounds of decency is fit for flying.
That's bad news for later-day Beau Brummells who would rather see people put a bit more effort into their choice of travel threads.
My own approach to in-flight wardrobe is basic and fuss-free, but designed not to look out of place in a first class lounge or cabin.
My standard travel gear starts with a pair of grey cotton "dress" chinos that are light, breathe well and still look good even with some in-flight creasing.
I usually pair that with a casual Oxford cotton shirt (I've picked up some excellent non-iron crease-resistant dress shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt), or for a more casual look, a plain cotton non-branded polo top.
Add a pair of slip-on shoes – ideal for breezing through airport security checkpoints and quickly slipping off once the flight begins – and I'm good to go.
Should airlines adopt tighter dress standards for lounges and business class travel? And what's your own choice of in-flight clothing?
David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business tripler.
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