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Heels & Short Skirts To Sneakers- The Air Hostess Uniform Is Experiencing Winds Of Change!

I have two sisters working as air hostess with an Indian airline. They talk about how uncomfortable they are on long flights with short skirts & heels!

I recently travelled by air and I couldn’t help but notice the flight stewardess wearing high heels and a short tight skirt. I am a lover of high heels myself but I know the damages that ensue when you wear them for extended hours. Wearing high heels especially over a long period of time can potentially damage your feet. The short-term effects include pain in the feet, blisters and long-term effects include varicose veins, corn and arthritis.

I have two sisters who are currently flying international in one of the Indian airlines. I have always heard stories from them about how uncomfortable they feel on long flights when they have to wear short skirts, tight tops and pencil heels. Sometimes there are incidents of sexual harassment from the passengers, there are men who letch at them and pass unwanted comments.

For the first time ever in Indian aviation, Spice Jet introduced special uniforms for their cabin crew in 2014. They were inspired by the concept of casual Fridays in the corporate world and they introduced colourful and casual uniforms for their crew on weekends. Women could wear colourful kurtis and denims, and jeans with polo shirts for the men. They wanted to make flying friendlier and a little more informal, not to mention more comfortable for the air hostess & crew. It was a delight to watch the air hostesses looking like the girl next door and so much more relatable.

Just because they work as an air hostess, do looks become more imp than comfort & practicality?

Women wearing high pencil heels and short skirts indeed look beautiful but how comfortable is it to stand in heels for hours at a stretch?

Alexandrina Denysenko who is a senior flight crew with over seven years of experience says there are times when they don’t get a single minute to sit down during a flight. Through the flight, she dreams of resting her swollen feet after standing in high heels for hours together.

“Shoes on heels look beautiful, I do not argue with that, but feet suffer and swell by the end of the flight. Sneakers are absolutely cool. God forbid, but if a crew has to do a landing in water and an evacuation, heels can damage the ladder and it won’t be very comfortable to swim in a skirt,” Denysenko told Reuters.

It is about time that airlines choose functionality over visual appeal. The main emphasis should be on comfort and looking presentable. Air hostesses not only greet and serve the passengers as the general opinion goes but they are also trained in emergency situations. Security and safety is their primary goal and their job requires a lot of physical training as well. They need to do their job well and wearing uncomfortable clothes just to please the customer gaze does not serve the purpose.

Now at ‘SkyUp Airlines’ an air hostess is not required to wear heels & pencil skirts!

Just a few weeks ago, in a welcome decision,‘SkyUp Airlines’ from Ukraine decided that a female air hostess is no longer required to wear uncomfortable heels and pencil skirts. This decision was taken basis the feedback from flight attendants about their uniform. The new SkyUp uniform is a loose orange suit, trousers, a silk scarf and white Nike sneakers. The blouses will be replaced by white shirts and the tight bun or pony tail hairstyle will be replaced by braids.

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‘SkyUp Airlines’ researched the uniforms worn globally by flight attendants since the early 1930s and decided to ditch the conservative elements. The study along with the feedback received by their staff was the foundation of the new and practical uniform. Olga Tsaregradskaya who is the curator of the new look explained how they worked on the new image. “A modern girl with an active life position, a champion who works for team results and shows respect for herself and her health.”

Marianna Grigorash, Head of SkyUp Airlines Marketing Department added, “Times have changed, women have changed. So in contrast to the conservative classics, heels, red lipstick and a bun, a new, more modern and comfortable image of a ‘champion’ has appeared. Freedom, natural beauty, individuality, no patterns and sneakers in which everyone would like to fly.”

Marianna Grigorash the Head of SkyUp Airlines Marketing Department said in a statement, “We’ve highlighted one of the globally important topics i.e. women’s rights and gender equality. We hope that this will be an impetus for global positive transformations in views and attitudes towards the treatment of women not only in aviation but entirely.”

“A woman in any field should have comfortable working conditions and the trademark of the crew should not necessarily include heels and a classic suit.”

A global change from options of trousers to gender-neutral uniforms

Our very own Indian airlines- ‘Air India’ had also revamped their uniforms in 2015 and decided to given an option to western formals for an air hostess. The female attendants have three uniforms to choose from- a traditional saree, a kurta with trousers or a long black jacket with trousers.

Virgin Atlantic changed some of their policies in 2019. An air hostess was given a choice to wear make-up only if they wanted to and the option of trousers were given to both the male and female crew.

Hong Kong Airlines changed their dress code when their female crew complained about their above the knee skirt being too short and uncomfortable. They were given the option of wearing trousers as well.

Icelandic carrier Play which would begin its service in 2021 mentioned that their uniforms would be casual and gender neutral. There would also be no specific guidelines on makeup, hair and tattoos.

You are so attractive…why don’t you become an air hostess?

The image of an air hostess is highly romanticized and unnecessarily glamorized. 

I agree it’s important to present a good image to the passengers but can’t it be done by dressing smartly and avoiding dress codes that are uncomfortable & promote gender stereotypes?  We need to look at cabin crew as people who could potentially save our lives but instead, we look at them like glammed-up dolls.

In fact, women who have good height and look attractive are often suggested, “Why don’t you become an air hostess?”  As if the only job an air hostess has is to look pretty and smile. As if they don’t have fixed working hours and across different time zones. In fact, jet lag and exhaustion are part and parcel of their job.

The air hostess uniform is experiencing winds of change…hopefully there will be more to come!

The change in dress code by ‘SkyUp Airlines’ has been applauded and for good reasons. There were many who agreed that the previous dress code was uncomfortable, sexist and restrictive.

We are in the21st century and women are so much more than just their looks. Women no longer want to play dress up and smile for others, it’s about time we stop looking at women as some decorative piece brightening up a . flight.

We all welcome this shift which not only gives an air hostess due respect but it is also mindful of their comfort.

A much-needed revolution indeed. Don’t you think?

Image source: Airline websites 


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