It’s probably one of the most iconic images of modern commercial aviation – picture the Captain and First officer walking through an airport departure hall, a throng of flight attendants trailing behind. The style is unmistakeable – a dark double-breasted jacket, white shirt, tie and of course, the pilot’s cap.
Yet, the Dutch-airline, KLM is about to completely do away with this most traditional element of a pilot’s uniform. In a statement, released a couple of days ago, the airline said it no longer sees “any added value in pilots wearing caps.”
Explaining the move, a spokesperson explained: “Pilots have worn caps since the earliest days of KLM’s existence. Over the years, the style and look of the cap has changed to suit the fashion of the day.” Caps it would appear, are no longer fashionable.
It’s not clear why KLM has decided that the cap is the one thing to be ditched from the current uniform but it insists it’s part of a plan to give pilot’s a “more modern and accessible appearance.” That could well be a fair point – psychologists have noted the peaked cap can cover the wearer’s eyes, which can seem intimidating to some.
The current uniform worn by pilots at many international airlines has changed very little since the earliest days of air travel. That uniform dates back to the years after WW1, where pilots were formerly in the military.
But in the 1930’s, many airlines adapted the look to make their pilots resemble a high-ranking naval officer. Issuing their pilot’s with smart trousers and double-breasted jackets made them look smarter and more professional. The famous, pilot’s cap signified their stature and rank.
And passenger’s loved the new look. They were already used to putting their trust in seafaring Ship’s officers for long ocean voyages but were unsure of the safety of air travel. Presenting pilots as Naval Officers instantly made passengers feel more confident about the pilot’s competence.
Those days, however, are long gone. Nowadays, we take for granted the safety of air travel, trusting the fact that the men and women who take command of an aircraft will get us to our final destination safely.
KLM will withdraw the pilot’s cap from 1st January 2018. Pilot’s who already have a cap will be able to keep it as a memento but the airline is encouraging them to donate them to the Stichting Hoogvliegers foundation.
The airline has partnered with the charity for many years, offering disadvantaged and seriously ill children the opportunity to be a pilot for the day.
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.