Delta Air Lines has announced that they are to redesign their Zac Posen uniforms for its 36,000 flight attendants and ground staff, following scores of complaints from employees that exposure to the current uniform was causing health problems.
“Our employees are our number one resource, and we’re listening to them,” Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Delta’s uniforms director said. “We will get this right — open and transparently.”
The new Zac Posen designs were introduced in 2018 to much fan fare and even featured in our Style In The Aisles Top Ten Uniforms 2018.
Several years of consultations had taken place between Posen, the design team and Delta employees. The stylish new garments in colours such as ‘Passport Plum’ and ‘Skyline Slate’ cost the airline millions.
But shortly after the uniforms were rolled out, flight attendants began reporting numerous health issues including hives, respiratory problems and hair loss.
Several lawsuits have since been filed by Delta employees against Lands’ End, who manufacturer the uniform pieces. Solicitors claim that chemicals used to make the garments waterproof, wrinkle- and stain-resistant, anti-static and high-stretch are causing the reactions.
The issues with skin irritation and other reactions arose despite the airline taking three years to develop the new uniform, including testing for allergens and development of alternative uniform pieces in natural fabrics.
For a while Delta has been allowing its employees to wear their own black and white attire and the number choosing to do so has grown in to the thousands, prompting this latest decision to totally redesign the apparel.
“It’s a number that just isn’t OK,” Dimbiloglu said, referencing employees who do not wish to wear the current uniform due to health problems or concerns. “We want our employees to feel unified and to be able to be part of the team, so we’re going to work to make that happen. We believe the uniform is safe, but clearly there is a group that doesn’t and having a subgroup of employees wearing black and white personal attire and having another group of employees wearing the uniforms just isn’t acceptable.”
Delta plans to collaborate with employees once again to redesign the uniform, with the new look hopefully being rolled out by December 2021 costing the company millions of dollars. “It’s not a cheap endeavour” said Dimbiloglu, but “it’s about getting it right for employees. We’re not tied to a timeline, we’re tied to getting it right.””
It is not yet determined whether it will be a full redesign or more limited.
In the meantime, the airline will try to offer alternative uniform pieces to once again give its staff a more unified look. This will include allowing flight attendants to wear dresses made of a different material that at the moment only airport staff wear, or a white cotton blouse. Delta will also produce flight attendant uniforms for women in grey, the same colour as men’s uniforms, with no chemical finish.
“We applaud this step in the right direction, but encourage Delta management to take additional actions as soon as possible for the health of all Flight Attendants and to repair the damage caused for individuals,” Sara Nelson, president of The Association of Flight Attendants Union (AFA), said in a statement. “AFA will certainly offer our assistance and expertise to Delta management in new uniform sourcing to ensure a safe, healthy, durable, wearable, and secure uniform is designed and procured for Delta Flight Attendants.”
What exactly is going on with US carriers and their new uniforms at the moment? First it was American Airlines and their Lands’ End redesign, Alaska Airlines crew have also reported issues with their Luly Yang creation and now Delta. As crew we send so much time in our uniforms that these companies really need to start getting these new uniforms rights first time.
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