British Airways has warned that it is investigating “abusive, disrespectful and derogatory comments” that have been made about the airline’s new designer uniform by its own employees.
The uniform was designed by the British Ghanaian tailor Ozwald Boateng and unveiled to great fanfare last week. The design process took nearly five years and suffered several lengthy delays, including a costly pilot’s strike and the pandemic.
More than 1,500 employees were involved in the uniform design process, and they helped shape the new collection, which includes an eye-catching jumpsuit that has been likened to the boilersuit worn by the fictional serial murderer Hannibal Lecter.
The hotly anticipated designs have proven controversial, however, and the collection has received a mixed response from BA’s own employees. Hundreds of comments have been left on internal social media channels – some of which are highly charged.
Female employees have objected to the placement of a large bright red triangular cut-out in the skirt and dress, as well as a ‘see-through’ blouse and masculine collar design. Workers are also upset about a penny-pinching decision not to include a handbag in the final design.
But some of the negative comments about the uniform have allegedly been directed at the 1,500 employees who helped shape the new uniform.
In an internal memo, the airline said: “Over the last few days, a number of our own colleagues have shared abusive, disrespectful and derogatory comments on social media”.
The memo continued: “We know everyone has individual styles and preferences, but this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated… we expect all colleagues to be kind and treat one another with respect”.
“We are actively investigating each incident and we will be taking any appropriate action,” the memo continued.
The airline says the negative comments do not represent the general opinion of employees who have been ‘impressed’ by the quality of the fabric used in the new uniform. Workers are also happy with the increased number of options that are available.
Along with the widely talked about jumpsuit, female staff can also wear a dress, skirt or trousers, while pilots will even get to wear culottes. Male staff will get a new three-piece suit with regular and slim fit style trousers.
Boateng has also designed a new tunic and hijab option, but British Airways has decided not to embrace any gender-neutral options, and it has been reported that male and female staff will have to wear a uniform that ‘matches’ their gender.
British Airways says Boateng took “painstaking care” to design the uniform and involved employees in more than 50 workshops. The design process included receiving feedback on prototypes and garment trials.
So-called ‘below wing’ employees including engineers and baggage handlers are expected to start wearing the new uniform by the Spring and customer-facing workers including cabin crew and airport workers are set to transition to the new look by Summer 2023.
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.