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British Airways Cabin Crews Are Fighting Over the Right to Wear Pants

Jan 31, 2014 3:00 am

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Uniform requirements for women at airlines often seem as if they’re from another century — and they often are.

— Jason Clampet

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British Airways

Crew pictured in this press photo from British Airways. British Airways


In a footnote to the bitter industrial disputes of recent years at British Airways, cabin crew unions are considering a further skirmish over who wears the trousers.

Redesigned BA uniforms in recent decades had extended the right to wear trousers to cabin crew of both sexes, but new female recruits are forced to wear skirts.

All new employees join the airline’s mixed fleet – a category of crew established in 2010 on inferior salaries, terms and conditions to existing staff and which now numbers around 2,000 of the airline’s 17,000 cabin crew. The mixed fleet won union recognition at the airline last year and now some crew members have asked it to raise the dress code.

The branch is conducting an online survey of its female members in the mixed fleet to see whether they wish to press for further action.

Reps said the issue of trousers had been “tentatively raised” with the airline’s higher management and were told that it was “not within the mixed fleet vision for female crew to wear trousers”.

The 80% wool, 20% polyester trousers are believed to be a more practical option than the skirt for crew performing manoeuvres in the colder months – particularly as thick, opaque tights are also off-limits at BA’s mixed fleet.

Women who work as cabin attendants in the worldwide (long-haul) and Euro fleets at British Airways have had the option to wear trousers since 2001, when uniforms were revamped by designer Julien McDonald. The airline at the time reportedly found 70% of female crew wished to have the choice.

A BA spokesman said the airline was not aware of any requests from its cabin crew to wear trousers. He said: “We believe our crew look professional and smart and we receive positive customer feedback on a regular basis.

“Our newest cabin crew fleet has always had its own uniform since its creation in 2010, with a number of unique aspects, such as female crew wearing a hat and skirt. This is the uniform offered to new members of cabin crew who are fully aware of this when they join the fleet.”

Strict rules on presentation remain in place across most airlines, although trousers are not universally regarded as an issue. Crew working at easyJet have a choice of skirts, trousers and dress – albeit all orange-tinged – from the uniform range. At Virgin Atlantic, trousers on women are rarely seen, although a spokeswoman said they could be provided for medical or religious requirements, with requests reviewed on a case by case basis.

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