Alaska Airlines is Creating Gender-Neutral Uniforms for Flight Attendants
March 29, 2022
Alaska Airlines is Creating Gender-Neutral Uniforms for Flight Attendants and Airport Staff
Business Insider - Taylor Rains
Alaska is creating a new gender-neutral uniform kit for flight attendants and airport workers. The company is also updating its grooming guidelines to allow all employees to wear makeup, earrings, and nail polish. The move comes less than a year after Alaska came under fire for its rigid "'male' and 'female' dress and grooming standards."
Alaska Airlines announced that it has updated its uniform and grooming guidelines for employees, giving workers the freedom to express themselves in an industry that has historically maintained rigid policies.
Starting Monday, Alaska will observe new gender-neutral uniform policies for flight attendants, lounge employees, and airport agents. In a letter to staff shared with Insider, the airline outlined the updated guidelines, which cover gender-neutral rules on footwear, makeup, jewelry, and nail polish.
Alaska new uniform guidelines:
- All employees can wear earrings, makeup, and nail polish.
- Also in the works is a new gender-neutral uniform kit, which is a first in the industry.
James Thomas, Alaska's director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, told Insider that the company created this initiative to give employees more individuality and show they care.
"We really wanted to double down on our commitment to inclusion," he said. "And not just say it in words, but also how do we show it in our actions."
Alaska has been updating its uniform guidelines since 2020 to give more flexibility to employees, like allowing flight attendants to order any pant, parka, or uniform kit regardless of gender identity. The airline's current uniforms, created by Seattle fashion designer Luly Yang, were unveiled in 2018.
The company came under fire in June 2021 when the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Alaska alleging the company's "rigid set of 'male' and 'female' dress and grooming standards" violated Washington state law, which says employers cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, appearance, or expression.
The letter was sent after Justin Wetherell, an Alaska flight attendant and instructor who is nonbinary, asked the ACLU to help them change the uniform policy.
"When I work as a flight attendant, I am forced into one of two standards, often for up to four days at a time," Wetherell told Forbes in 2021. "I am willing to follow all of the elements of the uniform policy for professional attire, as I do when I work as an instructor, but I don't want to be forced into a binary uniform that excludes me and leads to me being misgendered at work."
At the time, an Alaska spokesperson told Forbes the company is "committed to making Alaska a place where everyone feels respected and belongs and proudly celebrate the diversity of our employees" and was working on inclusive and gender-neutral uniform options.
Alaska is not the only carrier to ditch gender-specific uniform guidelines in recent years. In October, Ukrainian budget airline SkyUp said it would no longer require female flight attendants to wear heels and pencil skirts to work. Instead, those employees can opt for sneakers and trousers.
Meanwhile, in 2019, Virgin Atlantic dropped the requirement for women to wear makeup when working. The changes by airlines like SkyUp and Virgin pivot away from traditional uniform guidelines that overly focus on female appearances.