Tag Archives: uniforms

Flight attendant uniforms are about more than just style

get-attachment.aspxI wrote Flight attendants uniforms are about more than style for Mashable.com February 3, 2015

“Have you seen what I have to wear?” a first officer said when she overheard me talking about American Airlines‘ new uniforms. “A scarf,” she hissed. She may have used the f-word.

“Pilots don’t wear scarves, we wear ties. TIES!”

Got it? They wear ties.

Not long ago I wrote about how all anyone really needs is a scarf to look like a flight attendant. A scarf — and gold wings and stripes.

When it comes to stripes, flight attendants have two, first officers wear three, and the captain gets four. That’s one way we can tell each other apart, though it doesn’t mean passengers recognize the difference.

Once a celebrity asked the pilot on my flight for a cup of coffee after he stepped out of the cockpit during boarding. He wasn’t wearing his hat or blazer — but his stripes were visible. Still, he’d been mistaken for a flight attendant. You should have seen his face.

“As soon as we ditch pilot hats in the terminal, we look like ticket agents,” said Chris Manno, a pilot with a major airline.

So do I, and it’s why I don’t stand near the ticket counter. Except for the wings and two gold stripes around my wrist, I look just like an agent — except I don’t have the codes to look up the answers to questions about connecting gates and departure times. Passengers get mad when I don’t have an answer. I don’t know if they don’t see my wings or stripes — or they just don’t care.

But as much as I don’t like being mistaken for a gate agent, I need passengers to recognize I work for the airline. I need passengers to recognize I work for the airline.

I was interviewed recently by the New York Times about flight attendant uniforms, after American revealed their new ones. The reporter wanted to know if it was possible to feel stylish as a flight attendant, or if it is just a uniform, like a mail carrier or a mechanic.

My first thought was: Just a uniform? JUST A UNIFORM?

I’ve never noticed anyone checking out a mailman or mechanic when he walked by, like the way people look at flight attendants when they walk through the terminal. Even I stare at attendants from other carriers, particularly the foreign ones. They look so great.


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Crew Life, Mile-High Selfies and Our Lasting Obsession With Flight Attendants

get-attachment.aspxAirlines take their reputation seriously. There are strict rules about what flight attendants like myself can and can’t do while in uniform.

When I first started flying 18 years ago, I was told I couldn’t eat, drink or chew gum while walking through the airport terminal. (I have no idea if that rule still applies or if the company ever tried to enforce it.) Off duty we aren’t allowed to drink alcohol at a bar or on an airplane if we’re wearing our navy blue polyester.

When we discard a work dress or blouse, we have to remove all the buttons and any airline insignia. If our uniform pieces are stolen, we must file a police report — God forbid somebody tries to impersonate us. Did you know there are nightclubs in Japan that allow patrons the opportunity to spend the evening with women wearing “a real life” flight attendant uniform? It’s why one international carrier sewed tracking numbers into each of its uniform pieces and require its flight attendants to return them once they stop flying.

I was reminded of this recently, when I shared some of this with a reporter looking to do a story about a “secret group” of flight attendants. When she first mentioned the secret group, my head started spinning. A secret group of flight attendants? How could I not know about a secret group of flight attendants?

I’m a flight attendant. I’ve been flying a million years. I wrote a New York Times bestsellerabout life as a flight attendant. So if there’s one thing I know, it’s what’s going on in the airline world — and yet I had no idea what this reporter was talking about.

“Crew life,” she clarified.

“…crew life?” I laughed. “You mean the hashtag crew life?” I thought she was joking. She wasn’t.



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Crew Corner: Gap Modern Boot Pants


“Work” pants from The Gap FINALLY arrived on my doorstep last week.  Took long enough.  Three weeks to be exact.  They’re Modern Boot cut ($59.95)  and  fit so well I’m thinking about purchasing another pair in black.   Unfortunately Navy is only available online.


Q:  Do those work at every airline? (I’m off probation February 1st.)

A:  “Correct” answer is no.

Q:  Are you allowed to buy your uniform from The Gap?

A:  Uh-no! (Gulp)

Q:  Are you saying your uniform pants are from The Gap?

A:   NO. (nods yes)

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July 23, 2013 · 8:57 pm

Even flight attendants deserve the right to choose pants!

In a magazine I read years ago, a bigwig working for an international Asian carrier was quoted stating, “Passengers wouldn’t dare yell at a flight attendant wearing a dress.” It felt like a snide remark directed toward flight attendants in the United States who prefer to wear pants. Instead, it just demonstrated that he hadn’t spent much time with U.S. passengers, who are non-discriminating. They are happy to yell both at flight attendants wearing dresses and passengers wearing dresses.

That’s a quote from my book “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 feet.” I’m only sharing it with you because there’s been a lot in the news lately about Asiana Airlines. Its flight attendants are upset because they aren’t allowed to wear pants (or even glasses!). Their union recently filed a complaint to the human rights commission of Korea. The airline claims the uniform was designed based on hanbok, the Korean traditional dress. The flight attendants understand the airline has an image it wants to pursue, but they also believe the most important function of their job is to assist passengers.

I prefer to wear my skirt over the uniform pants and dress. In fact, I’ve only worn the pants a handful of times during my career — and I’ve been a flight attendant for 17 years! At first, it was the big bulky pleats with the high waist that was a problem for me. Now that the pleats are gone, the pants fit lower on the hips and the ankles aren’t tapered, it’s the material I have an issue with; it’s so thin you can practically see through it!

Last week a reporter for a well-known newspaper told me she had recently participated in what sounded like a flight attendant training program being offered to journalists and frequent fliers. She learned all kinds of interesting facts, including what not to wear on the plane in case there’s an emergency evacuation.”Which is exactly what most flight attendants are wearing, right?” I asked.

There was a long pause before she replied, “Now that you mention it…”

The point I’m trying to make is this:  KEEP READING

[photo courtesy of Blackwych]


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A letter to the producers of Project Runway regarding flight attendant uniforms

Dear Project Runway Producers,

Have I got a challenge for you! With the premiere of the new television show Pan Am airing September 25th on ABC, there’s been a lot of talk about airlines in the news lately. One can’t help but compare stewardesses of yesterday to flight attendants today, and yet the job rarely resembles what it once was so many years ago. Long gone are the days of glamour when stewardesses had strict age, weight and height requirements, and only averaged 18 months on the job. Nowadays flight attendants are allowed to be married, grow old, and gain weight – just like the rest of society!

Image is important to an airline. This is why most airlines have established very strict grooming standards flight attendants must abide by. I’ve been told passengers have more confidence in an airline when its employees look good. That makes sense considering when I look good, I feel good, and that in turn has a positive affect on passengers. But in America we come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors, opposed to our foreign counterparts who are hired because they are a specific size, shape and color. This is why it’s more difficult for US carriers to design a uniform that looks good on everyone.

Since 9/11 airlines have had to reduce expenses to stay in business. I’ve been working as a flight attendant for sixteen years, so I’ve experienced first hand just how much travel has changed in the last decade. Food was the first thing to go, followed by magazines, pillows and blankets. Even a few colleagues and a couple of airlines disappeared. This might explain why our polyester uniforms are no longer quite as impressive as they once were when air travel was considered a luxury and only the wealthy could afford to fly. Needless to say our uniforms have to be cheap enough to outfit tens of thousands of employees.


Photo courtesy of JFithian

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Barbie: I can be….Flight attendant / Pilot

Why don’t all pilots wear pink blazers and gold disco stripes down the front of their trousers?  

I spotted this Barbie uniform set at  Target yesterday.  Unfortunately I can’t find it on their website today.  But I did find it on Amazon.com – listed for a whopping (are you ready for this….) $68.99!!  This after clicking the Amazon link listed on Bizrate.com  that has it priced at $21.22.  Visit your local Target – NOW!  Before they sell out.

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Chapter 7: Cruising Altitude

An excerpt of chapter 7 – (the first of many drafts!)….

It’s important for flight attendants to find doctors who understand what our job entails.  For instance, we don’t just roll our bags gate to gate and onto the plane.  We lift eighty pounds over our heads and into the overhead bins each and every flight anywhere up to four times a day, fifteen days a month.   We don’t just serve drinks.  We push and pull two-hundred pound carts on an incline – usually two times per flight.  We can’t just go to work and deal with a bad case of the sniffles with a box of tissues.  We have to worry about our ear drums exploding.  Once I pleaded with a podiatrist not to release me back to work too soon after breaking my pinky toe.  

“You’ll be fine,” he assured me.  I wasn’t fine.  Not working a ten-hour day at 30,000 feet inside a pressurized flying tube.  Not running gate to gate as quickly as possible in order to avoid a delay at some of the busiest airports in the world.  When I went back to his office to have him fill out a few forms on top of the ones he’d already signed, I told him my toe didn’t just hurt, it throbbed. 

“Take six Advil,” he suggested.  Before I could say six!  He added, “You can relieve the pressure by cutting a hole in the side of your shoe.”  

I just stared at him.  He smiled.  This was no smiling matter! 

As per the flight attendant uniform guidebook, footwear must be conservative in style, plain black or navy blue, and have a covered toe, enclosed heel and enclosed sides (eh-um).  And there’s more.  Heels must be a minimum of one inch in height, width of heel should not exceed width of sole, heel and sole should be identical in color, heel or flats (loafer style with one inch heel) may be worn with pants, heels must be worn with dress or skirt while in public view, shoes must be polished and in good repair, and buckles, colored trims, laceups, loose straps, ties, bows or other adornments are not permitted. And these are just shoes we’re talking about! 

Obviously the podiatrist had no idea what it was like, really like, to work for an airline.  I mean we can’t just cut holes in our shoes and go to work!  Imagine a first class flight attendants’ panty-hosed toes hanging out during the service! Really there was no point telling the doctor any of this since the initial paperwork had already been signed, faxed, and approved by airline medical and I was already back on the line, practically OD’ing on Advil, while hobbling up and down the aisle ten hours a day.         

“I don’t know about this job,” said Georgette over a pay phone late one night at a bus stop in a strange Texas town she’d never head of.  Bound for Dallas on a Greyhound bus wearing navy blue six-inch heels, she’d been instructed as per company orders to get to the nearest airline medical center located at a major airport to have her blocked ears checked ASAP.  “Things are gonna get better, right?”

“Right!” I said, and I meant it too.  “You’re on a bus wearing a uniform that hasn’t been cleaned in a week and your undies are still damp after being washed out and hung to dry in the shower over night.  Seriously, how could it get any worse?”  When I heard her giggle, I knew she’d be okay – at least for a little while.  Hopefully until she made it to the next town and could call me back.  “Think of this as an adventure.  It’s going to make a great story to tell your grandkids.”     

Whenever passengers joke around and order the filet mignon medium in coach, I always laugh – Every.  Single. Time. Who am I to spoil their fun?  Well Georgette did the same thing, only she did it in fear.  She didn’t want to upset the guy wearing the NRA baseball cap who sat in the rear of the bus chewing tobacco and leering at her for what felt like days.  To make matters worse, each time the bus made a stop and a new group of passengers walked on board, upon seeing the navy blue and silver wings sitting right behind the driver (it seemed like the safest place), they’d laugh hysterically and then say something along the lines of, “if you’re not flyin we sure as hell ain’t either!” Followed by high-fives all around….

Photo courtesy of Hunter Desportes


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