Alaska Has Become the First Airline to Introduce Gender-Neutral Uniforms
But how this an industry first in the year 2022?
This week, Alaska Airlines announced that they had updated their uniform guidelines, for flight attendants and flight staff, to provide more freedom and flexibility in individual and gender expression.
Further, they seem to have taken United’s lead, relaxing their stance on appearance standards, stating: “With these changes, fingernail polish, makeup, two earrings per ear, and a single stud nose piercing are expression options available to all employees. We’ve also updated our grooming policies to allow tattoos in more locations, more hair style options and are adjusting the names of our uniform kits to be focused on fit vs. gender identifications. “
The new uniform kit, per a report from Insider, is a first for the industry. “We really wanted to double down on our commitment to inclusion,” said James Thomas, Alaska’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion. “And not just say it in words, but also how do we show it in our actions.”
Since 2020, Alaska has reportedly been updating its uniform guidelines, allowing flight attendants to order any pant, parka or uniform kit regardless of gender identity. Now, in addition to the new kit, they’ll have the option to wear person pronoun pins, too.
And good on Alaska, truly… it’s been a long time coming. But it does beg the question — how is this an industry first?
The fact is, (too) many airlines are still enforcing what are archaic and, frankly, bizarre conventionalities by 2022 standards. Just in the last few weeks, flight attendants from Iberia launched a petition in protest of the airline’s compulsory high heels rule, following the carrier’s first uniform overhaul in nearly two decades. On February 28, the Australian Services Union took to Facebook to ask Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce to amend their uniform policies and, more specifically, to scrap the rules that require female staff to wear high heels, as well as hosiery and makeup. Emirates, too, recently came under fire after it came to light that their “Appearance Management Program” included a weight requirement for flight attendants. Even Alaska, for their part, had their feet held to the fire when back in June 2021, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter alleging the airline’s “rigid set of ‘male’ and ‘female’ dress and grooming standards” violated Washington state law, which states that employers cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, appearance or expression.
All of this to say, while it seems like a feel good story at face value, the issue is still far more reaching and equally insidious. Asking flight attendants to adhere to certain beauty standards for the sake of furthering the brand is exploitative and misogynistic. The only thing that actually matters is that they be willing and able to save passengers in the event of an emergency, which — for what it’s worth — is most definitely more easily accomplished in flats. So, again — good on Alaska. But where the hell is everyone else on this?
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