The New Year is set to be an exciting one for British Airways – the airline’s chief executive, Alex Cruz has laid out grand plans for the Heathrow-based carrier as it celebrates its 100th birthday. There are plenty of celebrations for the centenary being planned and new investments to restore BA’s lacklustre shine are on the way. Along with a brand new Business Class seat (more details here), British Airways was also planning a new-look for its thousands of cabin crew and ground-based staff.
There is, however, just one small problem. We’ve learnt that the new uniform won’t actually make it in time for the centenary and is instead going to debut in mid-2020. Earlier this year, British Airways announced that Saville Row tailor, Ozwald Boateng would be designing the new look. Boateng was an unusual choice, given his love of colour and pattern – as well as the fact that he has only just launched his first womenswear collection.
Attempting to design and develop a new uniform for thousands of staff across many different business groups in such a short timeframe was always going to be a huge challenge and it probably makes sense that both Boateng and British Airways have come to an agreement to delay the rollout. Admittedly, it’s possible – just look at what Alberta Ferretti managed to do at Alitalia in six short months – but that kind of turnaround is unusual.
Zac Posen took several years to design, develop, test, refine and eventually rollout Atlanta-based Delta’s so-called “passport plum” uniform this year. Delta, no doubt, was mindful to avoid a similar disaster as experienced at rival American Airlines who are currently facing down a huge class-action lawsuit over it’s “toxic” uniform that launched in 2016. Many of the complaints stem from the choice of fabrics and the chemicals used in its production.
Similar problems occurred at Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines although it’s not so much of a concern at European-based carriers. Nonetheless, British Airways will be under pressure to get this new look right – staff have been wearing their current Julien Macdonald-designed duds since 2004 and Cruz wants the new look to be an “iconic symbol of our brand.” No pressure then.
Boateng and his team will also no doubt realise that whatever they design is either going to loved or loathed by those who wear it. According to an article in London’s The Time’s newspaper, there’s talk of industrial action next year owing to poor staff morale – in part, they claim, because of frequent cost-cutting measures that have alienated customers and staff. The new uniform, if all goes well, will hopefully restore some much-needed morale.
So far, the design team have apparently been shadowing BA staffers to learn more about their needs and wishes before taking to the drawing board. There is, though, one glimmer of hope – we should hopefully get a sneak peek of Boateng’s first designs by the Summer. A limited wear test will then follow with the full rollout following the year after.
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.