United Airlines is currently in the midst of a huge project to design and roll out new uniforms for 70,000 employees around the world. Work started on the project in 2017 with designer Tracy Reese, men’s outfitters Brooks Brothers and workwear specialist Carharrt selected to design the new threads for all uniformed employees including flight attendants, gate agents and ramp agents.
Leaked images of the Tracy Reese-designed garments from an internal workgroup last May weren’t particularly well received, although sources were quick to point out that these designs were far from the finished product and employee feedback was crucial to perfecting the design.
By January, United decided it was ready to release official images of the uniform for various workgroups – although, the airline warned that the pieces on display were still not a “full representation of the final uniform program.” Again, employee feedback would determine further decisions on design changes and a limited wear test by a select group of United employees would be used to make improvements.
Several months later and we’ve now learned that United is ready to confirm some of the changes it’s making to the uniforms. A spokesperson says some “small design tweaks” include:
- The piping on the male flight attendant blazer (which some said made it look like a bell boys uniform) will be removed
- The grey stripe on the side of the female skirt will also be removed
- An athletic fit shirt option for men and additional pant length options for female will be included
Some fabrics will also be updated to ensure better durability and less wrinkling – the airline has been working closely with trade unions to ensure they don’t use fabrics that could potentially cause chemical reactions. The cause of huge problems at American Airlines and to a lesser extent, Delta Air Lines.
In some cases, United has decided it needs to make complete redesigns – more details on these changes are expected to be communicated with employees later this month. Pretty much every garment is having some sort of change so expect the design process to be ongoing for some time.
“Creating brand new uniforms for more than 70,000 uniformed employees is a long journey that we’re committed to getting right,” explains the United spokesperson.
“Following the reveal of the preliminary designs, and our first wear-test, we combined all of the feedback we received from employees and worked with Tracy Reese and Brooks Brothers to make changes to address the biggest issues employees raised about each garment,” the spokesperson continued.
If United is able to stick to the current timeframe, they plan to conduct a larger wear test using the actual colors in early 2020. The base color will be Rhapsody Blue, with accent colors taken from United’s new brand palette which includes ‘Premium Purple’ and ‘Pacific Blue’.
The final uniform is slated to be rolled out in early 2021, although it’s likely that not everyone will love the design even with so much time and effort being put into the process. While United clearly wants as many employees to feel great wearing the new look, it will be crucial to create a safe and functional uniform.
New hire United flight attendants will certainly be hoping the new uniform looks good on them – a complete wardrobe costs over $800, a cost that flight attendants are expected to pick up themselves.
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.