Alaska Airlines is introducing ‘pronoun pins’ so that flight attendants and other frontline staffers can let passengers and colleagues know how they identify. The pins are being introduced as part of a much wider uniform and grooming policy shakeup after the airline was threatened with legal action for allegedly discriminating against non-binary and gender non-conforming flight attendants.
The pins will be available in three options: ’She/Her’, ‘He/Him’ and ’They/Them’ and are already being rolled out to employees who want to wear them. Work on changing Alaska’s booking system so that passengers can choose their preferred pronouns, however, isn’t yet complete and won’t be until the end of 2022.
Along with the pronoun pins, Alaska has had to rethink its uniform and grooming policy which used to be based on two binary definitions of gender. That policy was challenged last year after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) accused Alaska of discriminating against a non-binary flight attendant.
Justin Wetherell didn’t believe Alaska’s ‘male’ or ‘female’ uniform policies ‘fitted’ him and wanted to use elements from both. Until now, however, Alaska insisted that its employees choose one or the other.
That policy helped, for example, transgender employees but potentially discriminated against non-binary or gender non-conforming workers.
The ACLU pointed out a number of gender-specific disparities that included:
- Male and female-specific uniforms
- Men were banned from wearing makeup and nail polish
- Female flight attendants were barred from rolling up their shirt sleeves
- Men were prevented from wearing earrings and high-heels
Wetherell simply wanted the option to pick and choose from both gender policies but in keeping with the general uniform standards.
Alaska says it got the memo and has now updated its policy to “provide more freedom and flexibility in individual and gender expression”.
“With these changes, fingernail polish, makeup, two earrings per ear, and a single stud nose piercing are expression options available to all employees,” the Seattle-based airline explained in a statement.
“We’ve also updated our grooming policies to allow tattoos in more locations, more hairstyle options and are adjusting the names of our uniform kits to be focused on fit vs. gender identifications.”
The airline is also looking with its uniform designer Luly Yang to create a range of gender-neutral uniform pieces. In the meantime, employees can pick and choose from the entire uniform range.
“Policing gender is always wrong, and in many instances — including with Justin and Alaska Airlines — illegal,” commented ACLU senior staff attorney Galen Sherwin last June.
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.