Flight Attendants’ Shifting Dress Codes a Sign of the Times

A little-known Ukrainian airline, SkyGo, has made a headline-grabbing move by proudly and publicly rejecting the outdated dress standards for women that still prevail in much of the airline industry. SkyGo’s female staff now sport loose-fitting slacks in Ukraine’s famous orange, along with an orange blazer, a white T-shirt and white sneakers.

See for yourself; it’s Nike chic. And it obviously makes far more sense for workers who might spend 10-12 hours busy placating customers cooped up like battery hens.

SkyUp Airlines say that they decided to put an end to high heels and pencil skirts following feedback on the dress code from their staff. “We found out that despite the fact that the image of a female flight attendant is very romanticized, their job demands a lot of physical training,” said SkyUp’s PR team.

But of course, the company is also obviously aware of the move’s marketing potential, as well as its value in a Ukraine striving to define itself against the more conservative standards prevailing in Russia. SkyUp’s female staff, too, are still obliged to wear make-up and must follow certain approved hair-styles.

All the same, it’s a significant step for women in the industry. Most female flight attendants are still obliged to wear heels, and can only change out of them once on board.

In the US (and with Australia following suit), reform has come not so much through marketing as legal pressure. High heels on board are now a health and safety concern, and airlines have had to pay out millions of dollars for firing visibly pregnant flight attendants in the 70s and 80s.

The airline industry is famous for making sexist standards the norm for its flight attendants. Yet airlines are a high visibility business, and the issues facing flight attendants have long been an over-glamourised version of the issues facing women in the hospitality industry more generally.

A 2018 survey in Australia claimed 89% of women in hospitality had experienced sexual harrassment at work. The remaining 11% most likely have an atypical definition of harassment.

A change of dress code is likely to make a small but real difference toward better treatment of women in the workplace.

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Images via Facebook page of SkyUp Airlines.

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