An ex-Delta Air Lines flight attendant claims a new uniform that the carrier introduced in 2018 progressively made her sicker and sicker and may have been the cause of a cancer diagnosis that she continues to live with.
Regal Summer Owens filed the latest ‘toxic uniform’ lawsuit against Delta in Brooklyn district court on Monday, saying she was unfairly terminated from her job because of the illness that the uniform was causing.
Delta introduced its highly-anticipated Zac Posen-designed uniforms in June 2018, but within a week of rolling out the new threads, flight attendants started to complain about skin irritation caused by a new inflight apron.
Regal says she was one of the flight attendants who had issues with the apron, saying it caused severe itching, redness, swelling and bruising almost immediately.
The problems, however, went far beyond the inflight apron, according to Regal. By November 2018, she says a rash had developed on her buttocks, itching all over her body, burning watery eyes and shortness of breath.
During one flight, Regal claims she experienced fluid-filled blisters on her legs while she was working a flight, and before long, she started to suffer from extreme fatigue, tingling in her fingers and toes, frequent headaches and difficulty sleeping.
It wasn’t until March 2020, though, that Regal asked to switch the ‘passport plum’ designer uniform for a black and white alternative uniform of ‘off the rack’ staples.
Regal eventually obtained permission to wear the black and white uniform in September 2020, and by this point she claims around half of Delta’s flight attendants working out of JFK were now wearing their own clothes to work.
Wearing the black and white uniform relieved her symptoms, but Regal says she still experienced issues when working close to colleagues who were still in the passport plum uniform.
By early 2021, Delta had redesigned its uniform and was preparing to introduce a new grey uniform made with OEKO-TEX Standard 100 fabric – a certification that means that the material used in the garment has been tested for potentially dangerous substances and has been given the green light.
Regal claims she was ‘harassed’ into wearing the grey uniform, but when she started to wear the replacement uniform, her previous symptoms reared their ugly head ‘ten-fold’.
Regal says skin was peeling off her neck and face, and a rash ‘exploded’ across her body. She says she started to call in sick more often due to these symptoms before she was put on unpaid leave by her manager in May 2022.
The following month, Regal was terminated for supposed ‘reliability’ issues.
Regal has been diagnosed with T Cell Lymphoma, specifically Mycosis Fungoides. Earlier this month, Delta confirmed that it was officially retiring the ‘passport plum’ uniform.
An item of uniform of the old uniform was allegedly found to contain a toxic chemical in levels nearly 10x higher than what the fast-fashion chain H&M would permit, according to lab testing conducted by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA)
Delta also conducted its own independent chemical lab testing of 628 uniform items and found there was no “attributable health risk” from wearing the garments.
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.