On June 9, Australian airline Qantas decided to relax gender-based uniform rules, allowing male employees to wear makeup and have long hair. The new style guide also allows female employees to skip makeup and heels while on duty and wear comfortable flats. In yet another progressive move, in March, Indian airline Akasa Air also prioritised comfort of its crew by letting them wear sneakers instead of heels. In January, British Airways had a first uniform change in two decades and included jumpsuits and hijabs for its crew. In 2019, Air New Zealand ended a ban on staff having visible tattoos, allowing them to express cultural diversity.
Crew members back home applaud such initiatives and believe that the shift in dress code policy is a welcome move. Prini Kaur Chadha, former cabin crew, says, “Around 10 years ago, when I was working with an airline, our uniforms were too tight. We were expected to look like divas. Crew members were fired if they didn’t meet the expectations. But now, it’s heartening to see that airlines are reworking such rigid and impractical policies.”
Prerna Sethi Dangi, flight attendant, says, “Making the uniform comfortable and allowing flat footwear is a welcome step. We stand for really long hours. So, wearing heels becomes taxing. Our job earlier was to just look good, but now people have realised that passengers’ safety is our primary job.”
A cabin crew trainer, Surabhi Kalia, shares, “I am all for comfortable uniforms and the freedom to showcase individuality as long as they look presentable. Earlier, flying was associated with luxury, so a strict dress code added to the feel. Now, with so many affordable airlines, the focus is on making the crew look more relatable.”
Frequent flyers too share their opinions. Nachiket Barve, fashion designer, says, “It’s heartening that airlines are reworking guidelines according to the times we are living in. The crew’s job is to ensure safety and comfort and not look a certain way.” To this, model and former air hostess Sonalika Sahay adds, “When a uniform is designed, emergency landing is hardly a consideration. Uniforms should be apt for distress situations.”