British Airways is expected to make big changes to its clothing and grooming policies for front-line employees like as cabin crew, pilots, and airport staff in the coming weeks. According to company sources, planned upgrades include long-awaited updates that reflect modern Britain.
A spate of gender-neutral and inclusive modifications will substantially eliminate gender-specific rules on hair, makeup, and nail polish, as well as hats and shoes, among the most significant headline changes.
The airline had been working on the modified rules for several years and had planned to introduce them alongside a new designer uniform. For the time being, the yet-to-be-revealed Ozwald Boateng-designed uniform is on hold until British Airways recovers from the pandemic.
Despite the fact that BA’s purse strings are tight, the airline will go ahead with the new uniform policy as part of a larger effort to reflect societal developments. In an effort to become more inclusive, the airline recently removed gender-specific greetings from its planes and airports.
Following a succession of issues concerning BA’s grooming and uniform regulations over the previous few years, the rule revisions should prevent a judicial challenge.
In 2019, a senior union leader raised serious concerns about BA’s “sexualization of the uniform” and demanded the airline “relegate expectations of makeup, heel length and buttoned-up jackets to the history books”.
The Unite union, which covers many workgroups at the airline, including cabin workers, said there had been an overemphasis on everyone “looking the same” and that there were “obviously severe issues here of health, safety, dignity, respect, and equality.”
British Airways amended a contentious policy requiring cabin workers to get permission to remove their jackets if they were hot a short time afterward. British Airways was obliged to abandon a policy that required female cabin workers to carry a BA-issued purse due to a union challenge.
In yet another struggle with the unions, BA began allowing younger female cabin crew members on its now-defunct Mixed Fleet to wear pants instead of the company-issued skirt.
Although the tide is moving, the modifications may not go as far as United Airlines, which recently authorized cabin workers to wear visible non-offensive tattoos in uniform.
A labor court overturned Air Canada’s visible tattoo restriction earlier this year, while Air New Zealand already permits employees to wear tattoos while on duty.
The cabin staff of the new Icelandic airline PLAY is also allowed to have visible tattoos.