OPINION: Controversial Pietersen did not toe the line 

OPINION: Controversial Pietersen did not toe the line 

Published Friday 18 December 2015

OPINION: It clearly is the silly season when even a magazine of the Economist's stature would venture into the world of appropriate or inappropriate attire -- footwear in particular -- in Qantas’ lounges.

Back in April, the airline quietly and diplomatically and without too much fuss, decided that perhaps "smelly feet" was not the order of the day in its lounges and ruled that passengers were better suited to wearing footwear that covered their feet and toes. In other words, thongs (flip flops) were now taboo.

According to its website, it wants to ensure that attire is “smart casual”. As such it bans “thongs [flip-flops] and bare feet, head to toe gym wear, beachwear (including board shorts), sleepwear (including UGG boots and slippers), clothing featuring offensive images or slogans [and] revealing, unclean or torn clothing” from its club and business lounges.

Now it has all come to a head thanks to the man labelled "the walking ego" by Shane Warne. Yes, we're talking about the South African-born England cricketer Kevin Pietersen, who simply cannot avoid a controversy and appears to thrive on publicity, good or bad.

Earlier this week, Qantas barred Pietersen from its lounges as he flew from South Africa to Australia to play in the Big Bash League, because he was wearing flip flops. His response via twitter: “I suggest you tell Platinum, First Class flyers that they are not allowed in your lounges with flip-flops before they fly, Muppets!”

In this week’s edition and under the headline, “Should passengers be allowed to wear what they like in airport lounges?”, The Economist writes: “In the halcyon days of flying, passengers would dress in their Sunday best to board a plane. Air travel was glamorous; glad rags were expected. No longer.

“Only three types of people now wear a suit on a plane: those on business who don’t want to crumple their work attire; those who forlornly cling to the old idea that wearing a tie might result in an upgrade; and those flying the aircraft. Given what a cramped, miserable experience flying has become, you can hardly blame the masses if they turn up in tracksuits and flip-flops.”

It adds: "On the one hand, Mr Pietersen is right: as a customer he pays tens-of-thousands of dollars to sit at the front of Qantas’ planes, and that should entitle him to do pretty much anything he likes, beyond endangering safety and upsetting fellow passengers.

"But on balance, the Australian carrier has more of a right to impose its own standards. One wouldn’t expect to be allowed to wear a tracksuit for tea at the Ritz because the hotel wishes to portray a certain sophistication; its brand, and thus business, would suffer if its standards slipped. If Qantas believes that allowing flip-flops and surfing shorts in its lounges cheapens the first-class experience, then that is its prerogative."

Some people have the misfortune, due to lack of care in most cases, of sporting broken and dirty toe nails. It's not a pleasant sight at the best of times. Generally we don't look at people's feet, but in an aircraft or a lounge, they're on show.

Those of us fortunate enough to live in the Port comply by the standard footwear – thongs – and rigidly believe this is the most comfortable way to get about. Then, of course, there are those who go without shoes at all.

Pietersen’s tirade has raised a few moral issues and in this case, there will be many schools of thought.

Perhaps Qantas needs to revise their rules. Should you arrive at a lounge in your flip flops and on inspection your feet don't meet the required standards, you'll be marched off to the resident pedicurist for treatment.

And as you experience the wonders of a pedicure, you can then thank Kevin Pietersen.