British Airways told female cabin crew to wear white bras and t-shirts because a new blouse issued as part of the controversial Ozwald Boateng-issued uniform is so sheer that it is partially see-through.
The airline also told female crew members to avoid wearing lacy or patterned bras because the design might be visible through the silky blouse, which formed one of three uniform items in the collection.
That guidance has now been quietly ditched, with the official cabin crew union saying that it “beggars belief” that it was forced to raise concerns over the guidance in the first place.
“Incredible that we found ourselves in the awkward position of having to discuss what underwear our female members were ‘allowed’ to wear in 2023,” the BASSA union told its members in a recent memo.
“However, with a huge number of female members, that was exactly the uncomfortable place in which we found ourselves,” the memo continued. “It could be argued that we wouldn’t have even been in this position if the blouse wasn’t transparent in the first place!”
In 2019, British Airways was slammed for allegedly issuing similar underwear rules for its decades-old Julien Macdonald-designed uniform, which featured a form-fitting white shirt.
At the time, a top union leader criticised BA over its alleged “sexualisation of the uniform” and raised concerns that the old white shirt was too transparent.
The then Assistant General Secretary of the Unite union, Diana Holland, said she had learned of crew members being disciplined for wearing the wrong type of bra.
“In the 21st century, it is clearly neither appropriate nor acceptable that women should be put in a situation at work where they can be demeaned for their choice of undergarments,” Holland wrote at the time in an open letter to the Heathrow-based flag carrier.
In response, BA denied it had disciplined employees for wearing the ‘wrong type’ of underwear, and a spokesperson said the airline had no intention of ever telling crew members what kind of underwear they should wear.
With the introduction of the new uniform, which has received a mixed response from employees and the flying public, this type of guidance was, however, introduced before being removed several months later.
In the last year, British Airways has updated many of its grooming guidelines to address equality issues, although the airline has not gone as far as rival Virgin Atlantic, which has ditched traditional gender-based uniforms and allows crew to wear either the ‘red’ or ‘burgundy’ uniform which used to be the female and male uniforms respectively.
In a statement, a British Airways spokesperson told us: “We’ve removed a recommendation from our uniform guidelines and will continue to listen to our colleagues about what works best for them.”
The airline said the guidance was only a ‘recommendation’ and that it always intended to evolve its grooming standards over time.
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.