Malaysian flag carrier Malaysia Airlines has asked some of its frequent flyers how they feel about a replacement of the iconic sarong kebaya uniform worn by flight attendants in favor of a more “modest” alternative, including the optional use of headscarves.
Malaysia Airlines Considers More Modest Uniform To Replace Sarong Kebaya
The sarong kebaya uniform, similar in style to what is worn by female flight attendants on Singapore Airlines, has been in use since 1986 and is widely used in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Myanmar.
But as Malaysia moves in a more conservative, Islamic direction, the state-backed airline is considering ditching these iconic uniforms in favor of something more “modest.” A customer survey entitled “Malaysia Airlines Uniform Survey” directed toward members of its Enrich loyalty program asks two questions about onboard uniforms:
- Are you in favor of us putting a more modest twist to the iconic kebaya?
- Would you support flight attendants having the right to wear a hijab while serving passengers on both domestic and international flights?
In explaining the survey, Malaysia Airlines said, “Moving into the new year, we would like to take this opportunity to refresh our uniforms once again, embracing more inclusivity while still maintaining our classic Malaysia Airlines elegance.”
After media uproar over this survey, which was set to remain open till the end of January, it was abruptly closed earlier. However, Malaysia Airlines has refused to comment on it thus far.
It is interesting to me how a conservative move to make uniforms more modest in couched in a progressive defense of more “inclusivity.”
Siti Kasim, a Malaysian lawyer and human rights activist, condemned the proposed uniform change, telling the Straits Times:
“There is nothing wrong with the dressing of the female stewardesses. It’s a Malaysian iconic kebaya, they are not obscene, they look good. People are enraged filling up the survey form. Stop submitting yourself to Islamofascism.”
One industry analyst pointed out that Malaysia Airlines should focus on returning to profit, not replace something that does not need replacing:
“If changing cabin crew outfits results in the airline posting profits, improve on safety and advances the industry’s move towards ‘net zero’ carbon emissions, then go for it. Otherwise, stick to the tried and tested. As they say, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”
Some were in favor, though. Dr Suriani Sudi, who heads an ultra-conservative Islamist NGO called Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia, said he supported more “polite” uniforms.
Malaysia Airlines is considering replacing its iconic sarong kebaya uniforms worn by flight attendants. A survey to frequent flyers asks if they support a more modest uniform with optional headscarf. However, backlash against the proposed change in a diverse nation of 33,000,0000 people suggests that the uniform may stick around a bit longer.
What do you think about the uniforms on Malaysia Airlines?