British Airways is rumoured to be planning major changes to its uniform and grooming policy for front line employees including cabin crew, pilots and airport staff with full details set to be announced within the next few weeks. Planned changes include long asked for updates that reflect modern Britain according to company sources.
Some of the biggest headline changes include a slew of gender-neutral and inclusive updates which will largely abolish gender-specific rules on hair, makeup and nail polish, as well as hats and shoes.
The airline is said to have been working on the updated rules for several years and had originally planned to announce the changes alongside a new designer uniform. The yet-to-be-revealed Ozwald Boateng-designed uniform remains on hold for the time being as British Airways emerges from the pandemic.
Although BA is keeping its purse strings pulled tight, the airline will push ahead with the updated uniform policy as part of a wider effort to reflect changes in wider society. In recent weeks, the airline abolished gender-specific greetings onboard its planes and in airports in order to become more inclusive.
The rule changes should also head off the possibility of a legal challenge following a series of controversies surrounding BA’s grooming and uniform policies over the last few years.
In 2019, a senior union leader raised serious concerns about BA’s “sexualisation of the uniform” and demanded the airline “relegate expectations of makeup, heel length and buttoned-up jackets to the history books”.
Diana Holland, Assistant General Secretary of the Unite union which represents several workgroups including cabin crew at the airline said there had been an overemphasis on everyone “looking the same” and that there was “clearly serious issues here of health, safety, dignity, respect and equality.”
A short time later, British Airways changed a controversial policy that forced cabin crew to ask permission to remove their jackets if they were hot. In another union challenge, British Airways was forced to drop a policy that required female cabin crew to carry a BA issued handbag with them.
And in yet another battle with the unions, BA started allowing younger female cabin crew on its now-disbanded Mixed Fleet to wear trousers rather than the company-issued skirt.
The changes might not, however, go so far as United Airlines which recently allowed cabin crew to have visible non-offensive tattoos in uniform, although the tide is turning. Earlier this year, Air Canada had a visible tattoo ban struck down by a labour court and Air New Zealand already allows staff to display tattoos while in uniform.
New upstart Icelandic airline PLAY, also allows cabin crew to have visible tattoos.
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.