Could American Airlines' new flight attendant uniforms be making some employees sick?

New flight attendant uniforms have been all the rage lately. Multiple major airlines have been revamping their looks lately, usually to the tune of a more retro yet sleek vibe that makes everyone on board feel like they are in a classy airline fantasy rather than a mid-tier sales meeting with awful suit jackets all around them. Most of these changes get announced and then are immediately forgotten and only paid attention when passengers subliminally notice a more stylish flight environment, or if something goes wrong. Which it seems is what is happening with American Airlines right now.

Stylish flight attendant uniforms
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Stylish flight attendant uniforms


Zac Posen is no stranger to versatility: The former Project Runway judge has dressed Rihanna, First Lady Michelle Obama, and even David’s Bridal customers. Stepping away from the red carpet, his new collection for Atlanta-based Delta features mix-and-match separates in a sleek palette of purple, grey, and red, with alliteration-happy names like Groundspeed Graphite and Passport Plum—though we’ve seldom seen a purple passport. The new collection, which Posen says is all about "form and function," will be tested on the job in December, and adopted by the airline’s 60,000-some employees in 2018.

Photo by Chris Rank/Rank Studios

Virgin Atlantic

Vivienne Westwood’s glamorous crew uniforms hark back to 1940s French couture designs, with a narrow cut silhouette (a classic Westwood look) in the airline’s iconic red hue. Women's uniforms comprise a white ruffled blouse—first seen in her Red Label spring/summer 2005 collection—tucked into a pleated pencil skirt, and a structured jacket nipped in at the waist. Meanwhile, the gents sport Savile Row-inspired three-piece numbers—quintessentially British. The uniforms are eco-friendly, too: the polyester yarn comes from recycled plastic bottles.

Courtesy Virgin Atlantic

China Airlines

Taipei’s China Airlines uniforms have a space-age and slightly retro quality, and, in a way, they remind us of Balenciaga Spring 2008, which is always, always a good thing.

Courtesy China Airlines

Tigerair Australia

Tigerair Australia–a subsidiary of Virgin Australia–recently introduced new uniforms. The look? Coolly color-blocked shift dresses and long-sleeved tops in white, pewter, silver, and tangerine. They’re quite sporty.

Courtesy TigerAir Australia

Vueling Airlines

Vueling is a Spain-based low-cost carrier, but, just because it caters to the leisure and budget markets doesn’t mean its “look” isn’t sophisticated. The company recently debuted new uniforms, after working with its staff to perfect the designs. We’re particularly fond of the dove-gray wrap coats with contrasting edges, and the clean, double-band stripes on the scarves.

Courtesy Vueling Airlines

China Eastern

The house of Christian Lacroix designed Shanghai-based China Eastern’s latest uniforms, which feature simple navy shirt-dresses closured by contrasting, bright-red belts.

Courtesy China Eastern


Japan’s ANA (All Nippon Airways) revealed its latest uniforms in 2014, designed by the Nepalese-born, New York-based designer Prabal Gurung. Having made waves on the red carpet and with VIPs (Michelle Obama is a fan), Gurung’s airside wares retain a touch of that paparazzi-ready shine–with graphic racing stripes down blouses and pretty, flowery neck-scarves.

Courtesy ANA


For Qantas, Australia’s own Martin Grant—a past favorite of both Tilda Swinton and Lady GaGa—opted to design bold and punchy uniforms that invoke the same diagonal linearity and swoosh as the airline's world- famous kangaroo logo. With red-lapeled trench coats and dresses in red, navy, and fuchsia, the uniform aspires to timelessness. “I tend to look toward simplicity: nothing too complicated or tricky,” Grant says.

Courtesy Qantas


According to a statement released by the Association for Professional Flight Attendants, more than 1,600 of American's flight attendants have experienced headaches, rashes, hives, burning skin, and eye irritation since switching to the new outfits.

In a statement, the APFA says about the situation,

"Our members should not only look good in the uniform, but also feel good in the uniform. Yet this feeling is not the case for a rapidly growing segment of our membership who has reported adverse reactions, including many flight attendants who are quite pleased with the look of the uniform."

That last line serves to prove to the airline that this isn't just a made up issue to get out of wearing uncomfortable or ugly uniforms, which apparently is a going concern with problems such as this one. In response, American has set up a call center to process related complaints and is offering to supply alternative uniforms for those affected. In addition, they are working directly with the APFA to test for toxicity even though the airline says it tested the uniforms multiple times before they were released to the work force and nothing was detected that could cause such symptoms. Even with the alternative uniforms given as an option, the APFA is demanding a full recall and nothing less.

Their best guess at this time is that the high wool percentage in the material could be causing allergic reactions. However, 1,600 people being allergic to wool and either not knowing they are or not thinking to check the tags of new garments seems like an outlandish theory. A solution might not be imminent, and until then the cause of these scary symptoms will remain a mystery.

(via Buzzfeed)

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