Since last November an army of over 1,000 American Airlines employees have been field testing a brand new uniform which is set to be rolled out in little more than six months time. When we say brand new, what we mean is a reworked version of a uniform the Dallas Forth Worth-based airline launched back in September 2016 – a uniform that made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The new threads, which were made by Twin Hill (a division of Men’s Warehouse), very quickly started causing adverse health effects amongst thousands of wearers around the world. Most affected were flight attendants – more than 5,000 of whom have now reported symptomatic reactions to the uniform such as hives, headaches, rashes and other chronic ill health effects.
American Airlines eventually decided to replace the uniform and brought in a new uniform supplier in a bid to address serious staff concerns – a union that represents the American’s third-party regional flight attendants even threatened to sue the airline and would like to see cancer warning labels sewn in the duds.
Working with Lands’ End (who coincidentally also produce Delta Air Lines’ new uniform), American decided to use the opportunity to rework its September 2016 designs. A new color palette has been introduced including Parisian Blue and Cobalt, while the neck scarf features a new plaid design and men’s neckties also feature a new pattern.
Perhaps more importantly, the new uniforms will be manufactured to OEKO-TEX standard 100 – which means the fabrics used in the uniform have been tested for banned dyes, pesticides and many other hazardous chemicals. It’s the chemicals used in the manufacturing process that’s believed to be the root cause of American’s uniform debacle so this should resolve those problems.
American will also be offering the uniform in two types of fabric – natural or synthetic. The first time the airline has ever given staffers a choice.
But while the main elements of the new uniform – like men’s suiting, blouses, trousers and skirts – will be ready for the initial relaunch on 1st March, there’s one item of uniform which won’t quite be ready in time.
The airline has promised a new ‘signature dress‘ that will replace the poorly received button-up version currently issued to frontline female staffers. The problem is that the signature dress is a work in progress and won’t be ready until at least next Summer.
There is, though, an update on that front… American has revealed a shortlist of design contenders and is now asking flight attendants and other staffers to vote on which design they like the best. There are two groups of possible design – the first are short-sleeve capelet designs that American’s say come in Aviation blue and red.
The other group of designs is a long-sleeve ‘racer’ style version. Again in either Aviation blue or red. Don’t get too upset about the color shades, because as American notes in its internal messaging, the shades can look a lot different on screen than in person. We found that out ourselves when it came to the men’s neckties – which looked an awful lot like Delta’s ‘Passport Plum’ color on screen but turned out to be most definitely blue in real life.
What do you think of these designs? And which one would you choose?
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.