Just over a week ago, Virgin America ceased to exist – at least in the eyes of the law. Alaska Airlines had reached a significant milestone in the integration of Virgin into its own operations as the FAA issued a single operating certificate for the two carriers.
But while there hasn’t been any big changes to what passengers see and experience since Alaska closed its takeover deal with Virgin America in December 2016, that’s all set to change in a big way.
After much thought, Alaska decided that it was going to retire the Virgin America brand altogether. Alaska plans to merge the best elements of Virgin’s product offering with its own in order to create a “West Coast inspired vibe.” There’s already been a lot of work behind the scenes but there’s still a lot more to come.
And yesterday, we got to witness the next step in Alaska’s plan to create a new identity for itself with the unveiling of a brand new designer uniform. Two years in the making (and it won’t even be fully rolled out until late 2019), the new look will be worn by all 19,000 Alaska, Virgin American and Horizon Air employees.
Designed by Seattle-based designer, Luly Yang, the new collection encompasses 90 individual garments – that might sound like a lot but Yang’s task has been anything but easy. Somehow she’s created a highly customisable, stylish and practical uniform that is suitable for the extreme cold of Barrow, Alaska or the heat of Mexico.
“Luly’s designs perfectly capture our fresh, West Coast vibe and we’re absolutely thrilled with the collection,” explained Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing.
“Like our refreshed brand, launched in early 2016, our new uniform collection includes bright pops of colour, clean lines and stunning finishes, creating a stylish yet approachable look.”
Alaska has been quick to address a concern shared by many flight attendants – will the new uniform make them sick? After all, even before American’s disastrous new uniform rollout in 2016, Alaska employees had suffered allergic reactions to a new uniform they developed several years earlier.
Taking unprecedented steps, Alaska has teamed up with the International OEKO-TEX Association, a consortium of 15 textile research and testing institutions in Europe and Japan with offices in more than 60 countries.
The uniforms will be produced by Unisync of Toronto and all the pieces in the collection will comply with the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® certification. Alaska’s Ann Ardizzone said the process would allow the airline to “deliver a uniform that not only looks beautiful but is safe for our employees.”
The uniform will now be put through its paces by a team of 130 wear testers over the next two months with adjustments made before the grand full-scale rollout late next year.
As Yang put it herself: “Working on the Alaska Airlines custom uniform program has been one of the most complex and rewarding challenges of my career,”
“With 45 sizes per style and 13 very distinct workgroups, this was the ultimate puzzle to solve. My hope is that employees feel that they were heard throughout this process, love the collection and wear their uniforms with pride.”
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.