Galley Gossip: Even flight attendants deserve the right to choose pants

Asiana Airlines, flight attendant, stewardessIn a magazine I read years ago, a bigwig working for an international Asian carrier was quoted stating, “Passengers wouldn’t dare yell at a flight attendant wearing a dress.” It felt like a snide remark directed toward flight attendants in the United States who prefer to wear pants. Instead, it just demonstrated that he hadn’t spent much time with U.S. passengers, who are non-discriminating. They are happy to yell both at flight attendants wearing dresses and passengers wearing dresses.

That’s a quote from my book “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 feet.” I’m only sharing it with you because there’s been a lot in the news lately about Asiana Airlines. Its flight attendants are upset because they aren’t allowed to wear pants (or even glasses!). Their union recently filed a complaint to the human rights commission of Korea. The airline claims the uniform was designed based on hanbok, the Korean traditional dress. The flight attendants understand the airline has an image it wants to pursue, but they also believe the most important function of their job is to assist passengers.

I prefer to wear my skirt over the uniform pants and dress. In fact, I’ve only worn the pants a handful of times during my career — and I’ve been a flight attendant for 17 years! At first, it was the big bulky pleats with the high waist that was a problem for me. Now that the pleats are gone, the pants fit lower on the hips and the ankles aren’t tapered, it’s the material I have an issue with; it’s so thin you can practically see through it!Last week a reporter for a well-known newspaper told me she had recently participated in what sounded like a flight attendant training program being offered to journalists and frequent fliers. She learned all kinds of interesting facts, including what not to wear on the plane in case there’s an emergency evacuation.

“Which is exactly what most flight attendants are wearing, right?” I asked.

There was a long pause before she replied, “Now that you mention it…”

The point I’m trying to make is this: it actually makes more sense for flight attendants to be wearing pants. I’m not saying we should wear pants. I’m not even saying I want to wear pants. I’m just saying that having the option might be nice. As long as we look and feel good while doing exactly what we were hired to do – assist passengers – does it really matter if some of us are more comfortable wearing tailored trousers opposed to pencil skirts? If designed right, both can be equally stylish.

Come on, Asiana. Loosen up. Times have changed. Passengers have changed. Why can’t the uniform also change to reflect the modern times? If some flight attendants want to wear pants, let them wear pants!

Am I wrong?

Don’t answer that. Only because I can hear it already: “QUIT YOUR JOB IF YOU WANT TO WEAR PANTS!”

[Photo courtesy of Blackwych]