American Airlines new uniform – its first redesign in almost 30 years – was launched to much fanfare back in September 2016.
But just a few months after the Twin Hill designed outfit was rolled out, health complaints began to surface ranging from symptoms such as breathing difficulties, hives, rashes, and headaches. Since complaints began a total of 4,481 staff have reported reactions according to data from the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA). It was long suspected that chemicals used in the production of the uniform were responsible, although both American and the manufacturer Twin Hill conducted chemical testing which didn’t find anything untoward.
APFA claimed, however, that the chemical testing didn’t take account of the combination of chemicals found in the uniform or how those chemicals would react in the unique environment of an airplane cabin.
A temporary, stop-gap measure was introduced to address the immediate concerns but it was clear that the airline would need to rethink its long-term stance on the issue.
In January it was announced that Twin Hill would be ditched in favour of Lands’ End, who were already producing the new Zac Posen designs for Delta Air Lines uniform.
The decision was jointly agreed with the flight attendant union, who were impressed with the manufacturers “commitment to quality and safety.”
“Since June, APFA leaders have worked extensively with the Company on the selection of a new uniform supplier. We closely examined several potential vendors, and—with input from APFA’s Board of Directors—we identified Lands’ End as the vendor that can best meet the needs of our Flight Attendants”, the union explained. “Lands’ End is well known for its high-quality retail garments, and it also produces uniforms for Delta and Alaska flight crews”.
In a statement, a spokesperson for American Airlines said Lands’ End would start producing the uniform for flight attendants, airport customer service and premium customer service teams, using the same design as the current uniform but interestingly in a different colour.
The airline has decided to move towards a colour described as ‘Parisian Night’ – a dark, almost slate-like shade of blue. The decision to move away from the current shade of grey was based on “feedback from union leadership and members of our frontline uniform advisory team” explained the spokesperson. “In addition, changing the suiting colour is one way to accomplish an updated look and the blue colour family fits within our existing brand palette”.
Thankfully American has no intention of rolling out a potentially dangerous uniform for a second time. The airline was quick to point out that an extensive wear test will be conducted before the uniform is rolled out to its 70,000 frontline employees.
The new uniform is expected to debut next year – in the meantime, workgroups made up of current employees will be giving their feedback to make sure everything is perfect before launch day.
Sadly this doesn’t help those crew who continue to have problems with the previously issued uniforms. Brian Kabateck, plaintiff attorney for American Airlines employees who have sued the company over the defective uniforms said, “American Airlines may have picked a new uniform manufacturer but the company still hasn’t recalled the defective Twin Hill uniforms that are making thousands of AA employees sick” Kabateck said in a statement. “Switching uniform manufacturers does nothing to help the thousands of AA employees who are suffering from various illnesses related to exposure to the toxic uniforms. Delivery of the new uniforms is at least a year away, and in the meantime, thousands of employees continue to experience debilitating health problems that impact their daily lives and their ability to work”.
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