Delta Air Lines is earmarking at least $10 million for ‘off the rack’ black and white uniforms for flight attendants which would replace their ‘passport plum’ Zac Posen-designed garments according to the International Association of Machinists (IAM). The uniform replacements would be bought by individual flight attendants at normal retail stores with the costs reimbursed by Delta.
The decision to allow flight attendants to wear off the rack clothing rather than the standard uniform follows allegations that some staffers are experiencing reactions to the Lands’ End manufactured uniform which was introduced in May 2018. A group of more than 500 flight attendants, gate agents and lounge workers at the airline recently filed a class-action lawsuit against Lands’ End in connection with the allegations.
Court documents claim the group of flight attendants and ground staff have suffered severe respiratory distress, skin rashes and blisters, hair loss and blurred vision amongst other symptoms as a result of wearing the eye-catching purple uniform.
Delta admits that at least 2,000 employees have made some kind of complaint about the new uniform, while just shy of 1,000 have made formal complaints about suffering skin reactions and other adverse effects from the garments. In May 2019, around 80 flight attendants were wearing an alternative black and white uniform they had sourced themselves but that number could be set to grow massively.
A NIOSH health hazard evaluation report commissioned by the IAM advises Delta to continue offering an alternative uniform for staffers suffering health effects from the official garments and to allow these off the rack uniforms to be worn in the longterm.
Delta executives are now said to have approved a new streamlined approval process for an off the rack option, with flight attendants able to submit their request with a one-line email to their line manager. Previously, a spokesperson for Delta said that independent toxicology tests found no link between the uniform and any possible ill health effects.
“Our top priority continues to be the safety of our employees, which is why we invested in a rigorous toxicology study to determine if there was a universal scientific issue with the uniform,” explained the spokesperson.
“The results of the study confirm our uniforms meet the highest textile standards (OEKO-TEX) with the exception of the optional flight attendant apron, which we removed from the collection,”
The apparent uniform debacle is said to have helped reinvigorate a push for unionization, with the Association of Flight Attendant’s recently joining the call for Delta crew’s to sign union authorization cards.
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.