For the first time in Etihad Airways’ 16-year history, the airline has updated its outdated cabin crew dress code and has started to allow female cabin choice the choice of wearing trousers. The Abu Dhabi-based airline introduced its current uniform in 2014, famously allowing ground staff the option of a skirt or trousers but insisting female cabin crew wear a skirt.
The Ettore Bilotta-designed uniforms were created to “exude a classic elegance seldom seen in the aisles of modern airliners,” according to a press release at the time. Etihad Airways said the uniforms were a homage to the golden age of flight – “It is about bringing back classic elegance, allure and richness to our men and women in a style which will become their signature look,” said Aubrey Tiedt, Etihad’s VP of Guest Services.
We don’t know for sure why Etihad didn’t allow its female cabin crew the choice of wearing trousers but it would be easy to assume the airline was attempting to present a classic but stereotypical image of what we’ve been brought up to think flight attendants look like.
That, however, is (thankfully) quickly changing and Etihad Airways has once proved that it is moving with the times. A spokesperson for Etihad told us:
“The current uniform, which was introduced in December 2014, always featured optional trousers for our female ground staff. Since July, we have now extended this option to our female Cabin Crew.”
“Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive as it provides greater flexibility and a choice regarding what they want to wear to work.”
The airline joins a growing list of well-known premium airline brands that have updated their uniform regulations inline with changing social norms. Earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic made headlines after making trousers a standard option for its female cabin crew uniform – and ditching the requirement for female crew to wear makeup.
Japan Airlines has also recently unveiled a new uniform which will for the first time include a trouser option for female flight attendants. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific also claims it will finally provide a trouser option after years of campaigning but the change hasn’t yet been implemented.
It’s doubtful that Etihad Airways will drop minimum makeup rules anytime soon but the airline has updated its uniform standards in other ways – several months ago, a decision to allow male cabin crew to grow beards and other facial hair was very much welcomed by the crew community.
Since being appointed in September 2017, Etihad’s new chief executive Tony Douglas has made a number of sweeping changes to turn around the airline’s fortunes. Douglas has faced several big challenges and has needed to make a number of difficult decisions in order to cut costs and massive losses.
Certain decisions like introducing Buy On Board options and removing seatback screens on certain short-haul planes in favour of a Bring Your Own Device streaming service haven’t always been popular – but have been necessary. It’s great to see Etihad being so open to change and reacting to the needs of its passengers and staff.
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.