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Qantas Breaks Gender Barriers: Embraces Diversity in Uniform Policy

The Australian airline follows in the footsteps of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic in loosening its rules on what employees can wear based on their gender

by Fergus Cole

June 19, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Qantas

Australian flag carrier, Qantas, has updated its uniform policy for cabin crew and airport staff, allowing them to wear makeup or long hair regardless of gender.

From now on, Qantas’ female employees will no longer be required to wear makeup and heels on flights. Some staff had previously complained about the requirement to wear heels onboard, especially on long-haul flights.

All employees will also be permitted to wear jewelry, larger watches, and long hair worn in a ponytail or bun, no matter their gender, while male employees will be allowed to wear makeup for the first time. Cornrows are also a now-accepted hairstyle for all staff bar flight crew (for safety reasons), while diamond earrings are also now permitted.

Photo: Courtesy of Qantas Airways

The move was hailed as a “big win for workers” by the Australian Services Union (ASU), a trade union that campaigned for Qantas to change its strict uniform policy last year when it called for the airline to bring its “uniform policy into the 21st century”.

“Fashions change, and so have our style guidelines over the years,” said Qantas. “We’re proud of our diversity, and as well as bringing our guidelines up to date, these changes will make wearing our uniform more comfortable and practical for all of our people, including those with a wide range of body types and those from diverse cultural backgrounds.”

Following the policy change announcement, Qantas has become the latest in a string of carriers to relax gender-based uniform rules. U.K. flag carrier British Airways updated its uniform policy in 2016, allowing female employees to wear pants instead of a skirt, while Virgin Atlantic dropped its gender-based uniform policy last year.

Photo: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class Cabin. Courtesy of Qantas Airways

However, the relaxation of Qantas’ uniform policy doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all, as certain strict restrictions apply. For example, employees, including pilots, will still have to cover up any tattoos, while those choosing to wear skirts will still have to wear tights or stockings underneath. In terms of the style of the uniform, there will be no significant changes to what is currently in use and has been since 2016.

Qantas has built a reputation in the past for enforcing strict uniform guidelines on its staff, including banning handlebar mustaches, restricting the permitted length of sideburns, and outlining the ideal shade of eyeliner for female employees.

“Our iconic uniforms are loved around the world – and they aren’t changing,” added the airline. “Today, our employees can choose whether or not to wear makeup, flat shoes and boots are in, and strict rules on watch sizes are out.”