United Airlines has asked its flight attendants to take proper uniform wear and “personal grooming” more seriously.
In a memo to flight attendants obtained by Brian Sumers of Skift, John Slater, United’s Vice President for in-flight operations, told FAs:
Perhaps because of the distractions of our industry or the merger of our airlines, over time, we became too relaxed in compliance with established standards. We lost our focus on the value uniform standards have on our customers’ perception of our company.
The memo calls on FAs to take personal grooming “more seriously” and laments that wrinkled or stained clothing, worn-out shoes, and “skirt lengths that don’t conform to the standard” are hurting United’s image.
The flight attendant union is fully onboard, with a spokesperson telling Skift:
Flight attendants take pride in presenting a professional image. Uniform standards help to ensure crew members are easily identified and respected as they perform their role as aviation’s first responders. That’s why our flight attendant union works with United to reinforce uniform standards in a way that promotes our professional role in maintaining safety, health and security.
A United spokesperson told The Points Guy:
When our employees feel and look their best, it makes it easier for them to deliver the top-notch service our customers deserve. Part of putting our customers at the center of everything we do means making sure our employees are representing care and professionalism in their actions as well as their appearance.
Almost seven years ago, I penned a piece entitled On the Matter of Flight Attendant Professionalism, in which I spoke about a startling juxtaposition between Lufthansa FAs and United FAs at a train station in Frankfurt.
I described the pair of United FA’s in this way:
The guy was unshaven and his his shirt was hanging out from the back of his pants. His tie was loose, his trousers were much too short, and his shoes were scuffed. His female colleague was not much better. She was just wearing a short-sleeved shirt that she had not bothered to iron, and you could see the hem marks on her pants from 20 feet away. Her shoes were also heavily scuffed in the front and her hair was messed up.
The post was shared in a flight attendant Facebook group and I received comments like this:
You are a complete JERK!!! It’s passengers like you, that look “down” on us for whatever reason that make us care less about our jobs! I am a flight attendant because I LOVE to travel, not because I enjoy dealing with assholes like you! I could CARE less what you think!!
Uniform and grooming standards are not about gender, weight, or age. “Unprofessional” is not a polite way of saying ugly. Dressing nicely and grooming nicely has nothing to do with physical features. Rather, it has everything to do with professionalism and there is simply no excuse for not abiding by uniform regulations.
> Read More: On the Matter of Flight Attendant Professionalism
Looking back seven years later, I would have written my post a bit differently, but the sentiment is still unchanged: FAs are the front-line image of the company and dressing nice is essential. And apparently this is still an issue.
My #1 pet peeve is male FAs who loosen their ties and unbutton their top shirt button. That’s my subjective opinion, of course, but 1.) it looks incredibly sloppy and 2.) it counters United’s uniform regulations.
I write this as a consumer. I don’t work for United (or even Star Alliance anymore) or hold United stock. But I want United to succeed and I am very much of the opinion that taking time to ensure a uniform is pressed and shoes are shined says everything about the employee and says much about the health of the company itself.