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?
If only the U.S. had nationalized airlines, the subset of GOP religio-fascists would likely be introducing a similar bill.
And they would be justified
Found the fascist…..
I read Ron Desantis is considering a similar move for flights originating out of Florida….
meanwhile all those demonrat vaccine-mask fiends….get over yourself.
liberal true colors have been shown, and they are REALLY UGLY. Never cared for the republican extreme…but C19 exposed “liberals” (Or whatever is the term) to be far worse. And I live among the hive of them in Western WA.
trying times brings out the “best” in people…and the best for many democrat/liberals is pretty damn ugly.
“It is interesting to me how a conservative move to make uniforms more modest in couched in a progressive defense of progressive defense of more “progressive defense of more “inclusivity.”
Giving (female) staff the option of wearing something more ‘modest’ in order to keep with their own beliefs or what they are comfortable wearing. Just like most western carrier give choices to crew (skirts, dresses, trousers), etc. In many more conservative religious cultures, the option of wearing a veil gives a perceived barrier of protection against unwanted advances for many women, especially unmarried. Particularly in the service industry. Malaysia is a Muslim country, so I don’t think it is unreasonable plus as an example, crew on TK and MS have the option of wearing a veil, no big deal.
I didn’t read this to mean that necessarily the entire uniform would change, just that they make accommodation for different options. Of course we don’t know what a ‘modest twist’ is. I believe today that MH females have one choice, the keybaya. Why not let the crew have a choice?
Finally, I believe that the ability to chose to wear a hijab should be up to the individual. If staff would like to wear one, by all means, that’s their right.
Oh yea, right, in the same way that requiring abortion providers give vaginal ultrasounds is simply a desire to give patients more information ‘in the interest of consumer transparency.’
“Malaysia is a Muslim country”
It’s a Muslim majority country…one third of the population is not Muslim.
Malaysia is definitely a Muslim majority country. Importantly, Islam is the only religion stated in the Federal Constitution, Islam is stated as the ‘official’ religion, and all Malaysian Malays are Muslim by law.
The King of Malaysia is Muslim, and they have a dual law system, one common law, and the other at the local level based on Sha’ria, but agree Sha’ria only applies to Muslims and does not make up a significant part of their legal system.
Everyone’s making it sound like these ladies are running around on Malaysian planes half naked.
It’s just not true. The other crime is this move by religious fascist nuts is signaling to the world that women’s only value is as sex objects that must be covered up to save them from themselves…..
Very well said
Agreed fully. Time to focus on more important matters.
The sarong is outdated on both Malaysia and Singapore Airlines and the figure requirements to be able to wear it belong to a by-gone age. Both airlines need new uniforms for female staff and indeed it is only cabin crew forced into this ridiculous outfit.
Whatever comes next should be comfortable and practical for both the shortest flights of about fifty minutes and the longest ones of fourteen plus hours. With regard to headscarves, I have no problem provided it is the choice of each member of crew to wear one or not and not dictated to them from some religious zealot laying down the law.
Thanks for your Euro-centric paternalism. They wear their uniform with tremendous pride. It takes a really big, culturally unaware ego to declare the kebaya “ridiculous” and dictate how women in other cultures should dress.
So how many women in either Malaysia or Singapore do you see out and about dressed like this.
The answer is NONE.
I love the idea, more choice is a good thing. It’s tiresome that traditionally modest dress is viewed by western cultures, at least stereotypically, as extreme.
I loved when Jacinda Ardern wore a headscarf to show support after the mosque bombings in New Zealand. Why we’re not more tolerant of religious ideals when carried out in meaningful, feeling, and respectful ways is beyond me.
As for the comment from whatever ‘Industry Analyst’about returning from profit, buy -in from and having hard working employees who feel valued at their jobs is a cornerstone of a successful business. The analyst’s comment was only concerned with numbers but failed to recognize the potential impact of something like this.
Call me Eurocentric or whatever, but I find it really is sad that both Malaysia and Indonesia (not to mention Turkey) relatively prosperous countries are moving from a near-secular recent past to a future where religion (and not the most tolerant variety of it) will be politically prominent.
Given that it’s no secret that the likes of the KSA have been pouring money into efforts to push a more conservative flavour of Islam, I don’t know which scenario is worse – the West not being able to use its soft power and other resources to nudge them in a more secular direction or merely not caring about that kind of thing at all.
The current uniforms have been too wild for the last forty years? I’m not sure that trying to culturally revert to the 1950’s is a good idea.
PM You’re wrong about KSA. Their airlines introduced less modest uniforms several years ago which accentuate the figure and allow leg-revealing skirts.
About Malaysia, the anti-religious views I’ve read here are intolerant. Hijab-wearing women should be given equal opportunity in hiring and allowed to keep their hijab. They have significant numbers in Malaysia and it’s unfair to exclude them. The anti-religious would like to exclude hijabis from most employment and places of opportunity, such as institutes of higher education. Pure discrimination.
The comment on the KSA completely misses my point. I wasn’t referring to Saudia or any other airline.
What I am saying is that they, and possibly other Arab states like Qatar, are investing in cultural and political assets abroad and openly trying to push secular Muslim countries towards political Islam of the more conservative variety.
I have to say that I am not surprised that my point went completely unnoticed in the context of a comment chastising people who are wary of religiously inspired workwear requirements without even pointing out that the hijab isn’t always a completely free choice on the part of the individuals wearing it (of course, various geniuses who dislike that type of attire manage to further distort the discussion by inferring that the hijab can never be an individual choice).
Such interesting comments, especially the east beating the west with so-called “euro-centric paternalism” and the west plus the loud Siti Kassim claiming “this is Islamofascism”. We all have views, and not everybody will concur with it, just as we don’t with views of others all the time.
I don’t get the claims that we must not impose a style of uniform for the crew. Nobody is imposing; if it is policy to wear hijab as it is with some airlines, then you have a choice not to work there. Nothing is imposed, there is always a choice. The airline must be allowed to make their business decisions and seek the view of their direct stakeholders.
Personally, the best service actually comes from MH in my experience. Yes, middle Eastern carriers have some service quality too, but genuine warmth and concern of MH staffers on board is unrivalled (let’s not talk about ground staff). My point is why would the type of uniform impact this? It won’t.
Also, the kebaya, as beautiful as it is, probably isn’t the best for work. Maybe a pantsuit can be part of their uniform options. Certainly pants offer better mobility in an emergency compared to a tight kebaya or skirt.
Should they change? I guess it won’t hurt to be more aligned to the carrier’s country’s official religion. Nobody is talking about compulsory use of hijab or worse, purdah. But of course anything connected to religion gets many people heated up because they may not agree with the tenets. This should not deter anyone from doing what they think is right.
Makaysia airlines should wear beautiful uniforms like skirt and blouse. At the moment the keaya is ugly. Makaysia is a cosmopolitan country build up of Indians , Chinese and the Malays. Why should all the cabin crews wear the ugly hijab covering their faces, eyes and head. How horrible it would be to face their ugly looking uniforms. Maybe they should wear beautiful Indian sarees instead. Also get beautiful Chinese abd Indian stewardess instead of the ugky looking Malays Muslims only in Malaysian Airlines. If the Nakays beluef in Shariah law they all should live in Arabic countries instead of living in Malaysia.
Refer Royal Brunei Airlines as the closest example regarding this issue.
It’s creepy. It started with one inch and then getting to one yard. So MAS should not creep and grovel…just go all out and enforce the burqah.
Keep all the uniforms status quo , just add a apron on while serving .
Finally! I would totally agree those new requirements as for stewardess. We are as a female Muslim have our own options to chose and wear what we feel comfortable.
Good job for the optional use of headscarves.