Flight attendants at Delta Air Lines will soon be banned from wearing their own clothing at work following a toxic uniform scandal that resulted in nearly 50 percent of the Atlanta-based airline’s crew swapping out the official uniform for off the rack alternatives.
From Monday, May 2, flight attendants will no longer be allowed to wear what has been termed the ‘black and white’ uniform under any circumstances. Some flight attendants, however, still fear the root cause of the health complaints hasn’t been properly established.
Delta unveiled a new Zac Posen-designed uniform to much fanfare back in 2018 but within weeks of the rollout, some frontline staffers started to complain of serious adverse reactions to the garments.
Health complaints that have been associated with the uniform include rashes, welts, hives, dizzyness, confusion, breathing difficulties and even hair loss.
Campaigners believe the health complaints may be linked to certain chemicals used in the manufacturing process of the uniform, including special treatments that make the uniform stain-resistant and less prone to wrinkling.
Independent laboratory testing of sample uniform pieces has failed to properly back up those claims but as the problems became more and more widespread, Delta gave staffers the option to ditch the uniform and instead wear their own clothing to work.
The exemption was only meant to last for six weeks.
But for nearly five years, a growing group of Delta employees have worn off the rack alternatives to the official uniform – black trousers or a skirt, teamed with a white shirt or blouse and a black jumper or cardigan.
Now, Delta is finally ending the exemption after it introduced an alternative uniform choice made with Oeko-Tex 100 certified material. Flight attendants must wear one of the official uniform choices from Monday or go on unpaid leave.
Some flight attendants fear the new uniform does little to address their concerns and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) claims the mandate could result in mass disruption because “hundreds” of the crew will be forced to take unpaid leave.
The union, which doesn’t formally represent Delta flight attendants, is framing the toxic uniform scandal as another reason why crew members at the airline should unionize.
In recent years, toxic uniform scandals have disrupted operations at American Airlines, Alaska and Southwest Airlines. In March 2020, American Airlines introduced a modified uniform using Oeko-Tex standard 100 fabric which saw a dramatic drop in the number of uniform-related health complaints.
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.