United Airlines announced that it will conduct random flight attendant uniform inspections to promote compliance and the professional image of the company. But the union representing flight attendants is pushing back, arguing United should get its operational house in order before probing the dress and appearance of its members.
United Airlines Will Resume Flight Attendant Uniform Inspections
A memo recently went to flight attendants from John Slater, Senior Vice President of Inflight Services at United Airlines, entitled, “Taking pride in our appearance standards.” The memo begins with a carrot approach:
Because of your dedication, our leaders at our U.S. domestic base locations will be offering commendations to those in full uniform compliance.
Employees who are judged to be in full uniform compliance will receive a “commendation” and be entered in a drawing to win prizes.
But there’s also a stick component:
For those who are not in compliance, base leadership will ask you to address the concern and provide a reference to our uniform standards as a resource. For the first 30 days, our leaders will not document the conversation as long as you can correct the non-compliance issue prior to your flight.
Why this and why now in the middle of a busy summer of air travel? Slater reasons, “Your professional appearance and friendly demeanor set you apart from others and demonstrate the important role you have in taking care of our customers.”
Flight Attendant Union Pushes Back
But the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) which represents United flight attendants is not happy about the new compliance check program. Its memo to flight attendant explains:
We were reminded of the fact we are the face of our airline for all things safety and service. Unfortunately, we’re also the face of missing catering items and waiting at the airport to find out where our missing hotel information is, among many other things.
But flight attendant grievances are not just about the catering and hotels, but about the uniforms themselves:
It’s no secret that Flight Attendants have experienced challenges obtaining uniform items. From a deficit in the availability of uniform items for current Flight Attendants to our new-hire Flight Attendants not being provided a full complement of uniform items at graduation and, in some cases, ended up having to borrow from closets in Inflight or obtain uniform items from other than the expected company supply chain.
On that basis and on the basis of the busy summer travel season, the AFA concludes, “Considering all of the other challenges we are facing on a daily basis in the height of one of the busiest periods of travel, the timing of this initiative is poor and suggests a management disconnect…”
Consequently, the union suggests that United’s base managers divert their attention to more pressing matters:
Might it not be put to better use having management help resolve real-time and immediate issues we’ve more than clearly identified. Just to name a few, have local base management:
- Help find hotels for crews stuck in an airport waiting for information
- Work with catering to be sure we have the supplies we need ahead of departure time
- Making real-time decisions in the moment to release Flight Attendants who have been on hold an excessive amount of time with the crew desk
First, the good news. I’ve flown quite a few United flights this year and cannot recall a single uniform violation. Indeed, flight attendants have generally appeared quite professional to me. I’m not sure how big a problem this is in the first place.
Second, I think the union does have a point if there are supply chain issues that are preventing flight attendants from obtaining all their necessary uniforms items. Furthermore, in the height of a busy summer travel season, the focus must always be on smooth operations first, including ensuring that flight attendant ground services are being properly handled (like crew shuttles and hotels).
Finally, though, I don’t think good operations and ensuring proper uniform standards are mutually exclusive. United has relaxed its uniform standards in a push toward more inclusivity, but that does not change the fact that the flight attendants, more so than even pilots, are truly the image of the airline. Ensuring that uniforms are worn properly, fit properly, and well-maintained are totally reasonable no matter the season.
United Airlines will begin conducting dress and appearance compliance checks, with rewards for flight attendants who meet requirements and correction for those who do not. The union representing United’s flight attendants believes the initiative is ill-timed. It isn’t clear if the union has made a formal complaint to management or will grudgingly abide by this new policy.
It’s not a problem. It’s completely unnecessary and does nothing more than sow more bad blood between management and labor.
I can tell you from personal experience that these memos do absolutely nothing but rile up the flight attendants and nothing ever comes from it. This is just more belly aching from the Master Executive Council (MEC). What United flight attendants need to realize is that current AFA leadership is ineffective. If they really want proper representation and leaders that fight for them at the table, this requires a new MEC, which means Ken Diaz and his cronies need to be voted out of office. But if UA fa’s are happy with the way things currently are, which is internal memos that b*tch and complain about the company that get picked up by the travel blogs with no real end results, then by all means keep Diaz in power.
Oh Wow! You know what is more troubling? that “Flight Attendant X” is a prime example of the Subsidiary Mentality. Allow me to clarify: This flight attendant is a bitter one that still has come to terms that AFA its their Union. This kind of flight attendant, and there are hundreds of them, is so distracted by the past that the current negotiations will slip right under him/her/them. There is NO Sub-United, There is NO Sub-Continental. This is a whole new Airline that could care less about which carrier you worked for. This New Airline LOVES flight attendants like these, they thrive having them especially when new contracts are being negotiated. Bitter and divisive: Look the other way…Squirrel! The Union is not the issue, Ken Diaz is not the issue. Wake up! or get the hell out of the way of us that are truly in touch and make a difference in your CONTRACTUAL rights that most of you “X’s” have zero clue about.
Uniform inspections are a good thing. US airlines are in the minority, in that they often look sloppy. Your image is important. Most Airlines across the world do uniform checks and their service is better. Looking good does alot in making one feel better. The Airline unions come across as a bunch of victims & anything new is frowned upon. Again, the Airline has every right to inforce dress codes.
I would bet difference staffing between US domestic and international carriers would be the biggest determining factor in regards to service-especially on international flights. In fact United blames a lack of available hotel rooms in Europe for substandard service numbers….
Don’t forget to add that UA has like ZERO alignment for uniformes. Skirts, slacks, vests, frumpy and ugly sweaters…there are about 8 variations of the “uniform”, and they all look terrible. There absolutely no reason why a TEAM of personnel should have four or five different variations of a “single” uniform. It’s unprofessional and sloppy, and that’s before you add in the fact they don’t fit well on bodies that aren’t necessary slim. I’m all for this, but agree that UA branding maybe should get involved and have a cohesive look so flight crews don’t look like a ragtag gang of folks raiding a Goodwill rack.
As a passenger I demand uniform checks. Look good and represent the company. If you are wearing the proper uniform you will not have to worry about being checkrf
This news came out 8 days ago…
I’ve been busy.
Do better to be more efficient 🙂
To those passengers who think some of our crew look sloppy, allow me to give an insiders view of what has been happening.
1) The company will keep the cabin hot while the crew boards and sets up the cabin. They will hook up the APU just before boarding. So while the crew is working (for free during boarding), they are sweating and miserable. It saves the company money when they don’t hook up the APU.
2) The company is keeping crews waiting for up to 3 hours while holding to reach crew scheduling. It’s unbelievable at the stress it’s causing in order to get a hotel room,transportation or to find out where your new flight information is.
3) The company is changing schedules in the middle of a trip while sending flight attendants to a totally different destination and for longer than the crew was scheduled. Some crews are not getting home until 1-2 days past their original date.
4) We are not getting our supplies from catering and are the ones having to apologize to our passengers. We truly love our passengers and feel you deserve the best.
5) Having minor repairs such as WiFi or television screens are not being fixed. 5 lavatories on the right side of the B787 were allowed to go without being fixed for quite a few trips. This is stressful to the crew and unfair to the passengers.
6) Then in the middle of this chaos, they want to do uniform inspections. Did you know that new hires are getting maybe one uniform? We are all going thru our uniforms to donate to new hires. Some new hires don’t have a full uniform and have to improvise.
How this affects our flight attendants is beyond stressful. We can’t work without the proper tools. Management is being intentionally tone deaf and it’s time they fixed the issues. Our frustrations only get carried onboard because some crews are about to explode from frustration. United can’t understand why we are frustrated!
Why should flight attendants stay on hold for a minimum of 1 hour and up to 3 hours just to call back in after being sick and recovering? It’s maddening!!
United needs to take care of what flight crews need to do their jobs. It affects our job and our passengers. Get it together and stop picking on crews. Enough is enough.
This is a diatribe having nothing to do with the subject or some shabby looking FA’s. Each of the six cases you state have nothing to do with FA’s dressing correctly. Yes, UA has a lot of better things to be doing so dress as you are being paid for. You seem to be making the case for management to ignore or look the other way. Unions, blame everyone else/everything else while not addressing the issue. You don’t like working for UA, there are plenty of other airlines out there looking for FA’s. Oh, they also expect you to dress in accordance with the rules, what you going to do????? Oh snap!!!!!
Given the leeway they get, like wearing hideous clog shoes, they should be grateful that this is all they have to endure. U.S. FA’s are the fashion equivalent of a Sunday morning run to a Kohls in Topeka. How can they not be embarrassed when waiting behind European and Asian crews? Oh, yeah, they don’t care.
Good for UA. It’s a step in the right direction of at least trying to maintain some standards. I also think they could compliment this new enforcement with actually getting a proper designer to create distinctive uniforms instead of something that looks like it was a bulk sale by Vinny’s Uniform Surplus in Passaic.
This is funny because it is true. I can’t tell you how many time I have worked with disheveled flight attendants who can’t even be bothered to use a lint brush to remove the abundance of cat hairs from their sweaters…on day 1 of a 3 day trip! They want to look like they are schlepping to the laundromat with their 3 extra bags attached to their rollerboard, yet they don’t understand why the company wants to enforce appearance standards. SMH
It’s about time…..yet ironic. United has gone to the length and breadth to allow FA’s and other employees to present their “true selves” allowing for lipstick and nail polish on men, men’s uniforms on women, no pantyhose, outrageous hairdos, etc. and other “woke” presentations, all of which have nothing to do with service. I’m all for uniform checks. I remember in recent years walking through FRA airport and seeing flight crews from China Air and other (non-American flag) carriers who turned heads, they looked that good, crisp and sharp. Yet UAL, AA, etc – some look like an unmade bed. Have a little pride in a uniform and at least some of the “glamor” associated with it. Stop crying the blues.
There’s no winning with FA unions. If UA told the FAs to flush the toilet after using it, the FAs would respond with “Maybe if management didn’t create such a large carbon footprint by flying planes all over the world we might feel more comfortable wasting water!!” If I don’t dress appropriately at work, I don’t get to have a job anymore… and I’m pretty OK with that.
American flight attendants are the worst in the world. Most can’t be bothered to do their jobs or maintain a healthy body weight so it’s not surprising they can’t wear the uniform properly.
Just improve your Polaris food service, you guys, it is HIDEOUS!
I’d love to send you a couple pics of two flights I took so far this year, both business class on what one would consider premier runs of the two airlines. These are of the meal service. United from SFO to MEL just last month and in January, DXB to LAX. the photos speak without words about United Polaris meal service.
I know how bad UA has been lately. It’s sad, but beyond the control of flight attendants.
UA doesn’t fly between DBX and LAX
I think he meant EK?
I told you. Don’t EAT the food while flying. You will feel worse when you get off the plane. I personally do a FAST where I don’t eat or drink (except my own water) on a plane and I feel much better.
know the rules, follow them as best as possible and things will work out. no need to get riled up over a dumb memo. push operational issues up the right ladder, the uniform inspectors are not the right channel for poor catering or missing ice tongs. don’t create false equivalencies.
I was thinking maybe it’s the synthetic material that is uncomfortable to wear. Which is probably uncomfortable and maybe even has toxic chemicals in it.
I work for another airline with similar uniform and operational problems. At the end of the day, we need to remember who signs our pay checks. If my boss wants me to wear a uniform a certain way or perform a job a certain way – guess what… that is what they are paying me to do.
Airline operational incompetence has been going on for decades – just because things don’t go right / our way doesn’t mean we get to pick and the job requirements we want to perform.
Let the union fight for our working rights, but at the the same remember to follow the work rules dictated by our companies under our collective bargaining agreement. It’s not that complicated – do the job we were hired to do. If I want to “express” myself, I’ll go find a job that better fits those needs.