Around half of Delta Air Lines’ flight attendants wear their own clothes to work and don’t have to wear the Atlanta-based carrier’s official designer uniform according to new court documents. Delta first started to allow flight attendants to wear an alternative to the official uniform in 2019 after allegations that the garments were causing some staff to break out in rashes and hives.
In May 2019, when the alternative uniform was first permitted, just 80 ‘in-flight service’ employees had been granted permission to wear their own clothes according to a report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Now, there are as many as 12,500 flight attendants wearing their own clothes to work. The unofficial alternative uniform is an off the rack pair of black trousers or a skirt, teamed with a white shirt or blouse and a black jumper or cardigan.
Flight attendants who opt to wear the alternative uniform pin their ‘wings’ to their clothes to make them identifiable as a member of crew onboard a flight. A spokesperson for Delta said the airline did not have any further updates on its uniform project.
The airline unveiled its new Zac Posen designed uniform to much fanfare in 2018 and rolled out the new look in an overnight switch in May of that year. Within weeks, the first signs that something was amiss started to surface when Delta confirmed it was making some adjustments to the garments because wearers said they had experienced skin irritation.
The reported issues, however, started to become more and more serious. Some Delta staffers said they experienced rashes and hives, as well as experiencing headaches and hair loss after wearing the uniforms. Flight attendants were mostly affected.
Critics of the Lands’ End produced uniform claim chemical treatments used in the manufacture of the uniforms are likely to blame for the health complaints but there is no conclusive proof and the vast majority of Delta employees have worn the uniform without complaint.
The option to wear ‘black and white’ off the rack clothing was only meant to last six weeks while Delta finalized a workaround.
Some employees have attempted to sue both Delta and Lands’ End over the uniform debacle but Judge James Peterson in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin rejected the latest bid to bring a class-action lawsuit against Lands’ End.
The employees had argued that Lands’ End had distributed the uniforms with a 100% satisfaction guarantee and that they were entitled to a refund for defective uniform. The guarantee offers a refund or exchange and employees can either opt to get an exchange or switch to the ‘black and white’ uniform.
On another matter, the employees argued a class action should be granted by the court because some uniform items were bleeding colors. The court rejected the claim on the basis that uniform crocking varied enormously between different employees and that individual claims would be more appropriate.
Delta declined to comment on the judgement.
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.