A uniform approach
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.