A uni­form ap­proach

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

Qan­tas has re­leased its latest flight crew uni­forms. The chic collection has been de­signed by Mel­bourne-born Martin Grant and (hur­rah) with a vari­a­tion for fe­male pi­lots and of­fi­cers. It’s been 13 years since Qan­tas re­vamped the kit (Peter Mor­ris­sey “re­freshed” the look in 2003) and these latest changes are con­sid­er­able, from nau­ti­cal­look­ing white caps with fly­ing kan­ga­roo mo­tifs to French navy light­weight and wa­ter-re­sis­tant wool trench-coats and jack­ets with jaunty red vents at the back, and nippedin waists for the gals.

It’s all rather cat­walk glam and takes the fo­cus away from cabin crew, whose uni­forms are more reg­u­larly up­dated on most air­lines and not al­ways for the bet­ter. Who could for­get those weird grey fe­do­ras and knit­ted vests on Air Canada Rouge or Lufthansa’s batty “Bavar­ian folk cos­tume” with dirndl and apron, mak­ing the cabin at­ten­dants look like scullery maids. Or Qan­tas’s Pucci pat­terned shirt­maker dresses for fe­male cabin crew and alarm­ingly bright coral-orange jack­ets and brown trousers for the chaps from the mid-70s to mid-80s.

Sin­ga­pore Air­lines has had ba­si­cally the same batikprinted sarong ke­baya style since the early 1970s and you can even buy one at shops in Changi air­port although good luck squeez­ing into that pen­cil-slim skirt.

Al­i­talia has just un­veiled flight and ground staff uni­forms by Mi­lan-based Et­tore Bilotta cre­ated to re­vive “the golden days of Ital­ian fash­ion in the 50s and 60s”; for fe­male flight at­ten­dants, it’s all green gloves and pert red caps, with a touch of ush­erette chic. Al­i­talia’s ma­jor­ity stake­holder, Abu Dhabi-based Eti­had Air­ways, also has strik­ing crew uni­forms cre­ated by Bilotta with a retro look of fit­ted gloves and belts and muted desert colours.

But it’s pas­sen­gers who fail the style test and not just on bud­get car­ri­ers, where beer-branded sin­glets, thongs and bum cracks reg­u­larly ap­pear along the aisle, all enough to put you off your $10 shrink-wrapped muf­fin. If you look at ar­chive pho­to­graphs on sites such as the Pan Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal Foun­da­tion (panam.org) you’ll see how high fly­ers used to dress. It was all pressed suits and frocks, pearls and heels, and even hats (for him and her).

Most air­lines pro­vide in-flight socks and eye-masks to in­ter­na­tional pas­sen­gers and you need the lat­ter to shield your gaze from bare feet as far too many fly­ers just like to flex their toes on-board and hang any associated whiff.

Fly­ing is no longer so­phis­ti­cated; it is cheap and func­tional and few pas­sen­gers feel the need to dress up. I have sat next to a pas­sen­ger wear­ing Qan­tas py­ja­mas. He did not put on the sleeper suit af­ter board­ing but wore it through the air­port and on to the plane. We were not on a Qan­tas flight and the grey kit, with un­miss­able black kan­ga­roo logo on the chest, looked hardly more ca­sual than the av­er­age track­suit. It must be ad­mit­ted I have worn a black Eti­had first-class py­jama top with sparkly Swarovski zip­per to a din­ner event when my lug­gage went miss­ing. I reg­u­larly don a Vir­gin At­lantic slum­ber suit to sneak along to the cor­ner shop in win­ter … but not that air­line’s short-lived “one­sie” with a hood. That fash­ion mishap cer­tainly would not fly un­der the radar.

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