Earlier this year, we reported on an allegation made by female cabin crew at British Airways who accused their employer of “crass and sexist” behaviour. The problem, it turned out, was the airline’s uniform policy which required female staff to carry a company-issued handbag with them whenever they were on duty.
A union representing some BA cabin crew, the British Airline Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA) said at least 500 members had already complained about the policy. They claimed they already had enough to carry and of course, male cabin crew didn’t have to comply with a similar policy.
At the time, the complaint was seemingly ignored by British Airways. A spokesperson for the airline, simply told us: “Our cabin crew take great pride in their appearance while representing British Airways and our uniform is designed to be stylish, professional and comfortable.”
But, BA did leave one glimmer of hope, explaining that managers “regularly meet with colleagues to discuss cabin crew uniforms and listen to any concerns they raise.” And it turns out that these concerns really may have been listened to.
In a memo to BA staffers, the company has told its female cabin crew that the wearing of the company-issued handbag is no longer mandatory. Instead, female crew can use their normal suitcase or cabin bag – just like their male counterparts.
That’s not to say you’ll see a British Airways flight attendant flaunting a Michael Kors number – any other brand of handbag is strictly forbidden although interestingly they will be allowed to use an “additional bag” as long as it’s not worn on the shoulder.
The issue it seems is more that a handbag can be construed as a gender-specific’ piece of uniform. Also confusing the situation, however, is the fact that British Airways doesn’t provide company-issued luggage so if female cabin crew do want to ditch their handbags, they’ll be expected to fork out their own money for the ‘additional bag’.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.