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Higher Fashion

Along with expanding fleets and blossoming route maps, airlines are plowing their years of unprecedented profitability back into their products, with reimagined lounges and new inflight offerings.  Tying all these creative improvements together is each carrier’s carefully cultivated image – livery, logos, color schemes and advertising – no matter how small, each element reinforces the brand promise and culture of the airline.  

This image-making all comes together for the passenger with the people the airline puts in its customer-facing roles,  from flight crews and cabin attendants to gate agents and concierges.  How they interact with fliers, how they speak and, perhaps, especially how they dress, all convey a certain message about the company they work for and the industry they serve.

So it is not surprising that airline fashion is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts.  Here’s a look at some of the carriers who are rolling out the latest designs.  

Hainan Airlines

Arguably the most distinctive and “high-fashion” uniform on this list – its debut at the 2017 Laurence Xu Haute Couture Show in Paris certainly helps – Hainan Airlines’ new staff attire showcases the carrier’s Chinese origins. Designed by Xu, the clothing range features cheongsam dresses and Mandarin collars, though with distinct Western features, including a full-length double-breasted pea coat-style overcoat for male staff.

Hainan’s is the latest new look to premiere in service, having taken to the skies last month.  However the airline is no newcomer to creating uniform designs; these will be the airline’s fifth generation of staff attire, with its last update in 2010.  The process has been ongoing for about two years through more than 1,000 design blueprints and a hundred garment samples.

Delta Air LInes

Also new to the skies this year, Delta has launched its new staff uniforms, around three years after the partnership with New York-based designer Zac Posen was first announced.  The design process encompassed 86 hours of focus group sessions with staff to gather feedback and 1,000 “wear testers” put the new uniforms through their paces over a period of three months to gather feedback on how they “held up in action.”

The new designs were unveiled in May and the airline reports that a total of 60,000 uniformed employees will receive the new styles. The last time Delta’s “above wing” staff received an upgrade to their uniform collection was almost exactly a decade ago in 2008.

Eva Air

In August 2017, Taiwan’s Eva Air unveiled its new staff uniform on the same day it retired its “Queen of the Skies,” the 747, billing it as “a fond farewell to the old and an enthusiastic welcome to the new.”

This is only the third uniform the airline has rolled out; its previous change took place 14 years ago. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the new attire is that it was designed by Taiwanese fashion house Shiatzy Chen, which sent teams around to different airports and aboard flights to observe staff and crew at work to understand the requirements of their uniforms.

Eva Air’s new uniforms made their debut in November.

United Airlines

At the same time, United also announced plans for new uniforms. As with Eva Air, these are being developed in collaboration with a fashion house – well, three in this case. Brooks Brothers, Tracy Reese and Carhartt will all contribute to the new collection, which will undergo a comprehensive series of tests, focus group analysis and consultation before it gets rolled out. Meanwhile Tumi will be responsible for developing luggage for all 24,000 of United’s flight attendants.

The current timeline for the new uniforms to enter use is sometime in 2020, so travelers will have to wait quite a while before they can witness the fruits of these labors.


Low-cost carrier Flydubai has introduced its first uniform redesign which coincided the roll out of the carrier’s 737 Max 8 service which began in late 2017.

The distinctly casual attire features patterned shirts and zip-up jackets alongside more formal features such as long skirts, blazers and three-quarter coats – all of which were designed by Dubai-based hospitality supplier, A. Ronai LLC.

American Airlines

Not all uniform changes are prompted by style considerations. In 2016 American Airlines launched a much-touted uniform design as part of the new look following the merger of American with US Airways.  Almost immediately, complaints started coming in from employees who blamed the uniforms for a whole list of maladies from hives and rashes to headaches.

Although American and the uniform maker denied any direct link, the airline has recently announced that it is switching providers to Lands’ End for most of its employees, while pilots will be outfitted by Murphy and Hartelius. The redesign is underway and is expected to take to the skies in 2020, following extensive testing.  One important fashion side note: It looks like the color palette will turn full circle to the traditional navy blue which was the hallmark of uniforms at both carriers pre-merger.


Singapore-based budget airline Scoot underwent something of a rebrand recently following its merger with fellow low-cost carrier, Tigerair. New routes were announced, as was a fresh aircraft livery, along with a revamped staff uniform to match.

New details include subtle nods to the airline’s brand colors – black buttons with yellow thread, for instance – along with wider changes, notably switching from t-shirts to polos for men. The new uniforms also have more black and less yellow compared to their previous iterations.

AIR Canada

Air Canada announced a swath of new updates across its business last year, from a new loyalty program that’s set to come into effect in 2020, to a brand new airline livery for all aircraft in its fleet.

It was with this latter livery redesign that the carrier’s uniforms also got their update, taking on a red and black color scheme to match the new look of its aircraft. Developed by Canadian designer Christopher Bates, the uniforms are among the more conventional on this list, offering a smart and quite formal look.

Alaska Airlines

More than two years in the making, the new Alaska Airlines uniform by designer Luly Yang debuted in January at a fashion show at the company’s Sea-Tac hangar. The refreshed look, which takes styling cues from the sleek uniforms of Virgin America, follows the merger of the two airlines in 2016.

The new collection will be worn by the 19,000 employees of Alaska, Virgin America and Horizon Air, including flight crew and attendants. Among the design features, the collection can be layered to allow employees to adjust for comfort while working in both freezing and tropical temperatures.

Travelers looking forward to seeing the new uniforms will have to be patient, however; the roll-out is not expected to start until late in 2019.