One airline is catching heat for forcing its flight attendants to spiff up.
Air India has issued strict grooming requirements for cabin crew in an exhaustive 39-page handbook. The new rules include a ban on gray hair—which must be regularly dyed a natural shade. And male employees with receding hairlines or bald patches must now shave their head in order to maintain a cleaner look.
That’s just the start: Crew cuts aren’t permitted. No beards (male crew members must be freshly shaved and carry a shaving kit on every flight). High top knots and low buns are banned for female crew members. Women can’t wear pearl earrings—only plain gold or diamond studs.
There are even rules about what the crew can read while onboard the plane, as well as what they can post on social media (no politics, no company-related issues).
The requirements are part of an attempt by new owners Tata Group to overhaul the airline’s image now that it has been made private. The airline’s new CEO, Campbell Wilson, comes from Singapore Airlines, which is famous for its own strict image guidelines. Singapore Airlines flight attendants have been wearing the same uniform since 1968 and must adhere to rules about hairstyles, lipstick color and more.
Air India’s new rules also come at a time when many airlines around the globe are relaxing dress codes. Virgin Atlantic now allows its staff to show off their tattoos (“At Virgin Atlantic, we want everyone to be themselves and know that they belong,” the airline’s chief people officer, Estelle Hollingsworth told the Wall Street Journal).
South Korea’s Aero K Airlines has introduced casual gender-neutral uniforms with sneakers and T-shirts. And Alaska Airlines has updated its uniform guidelines “to provide freedom and flexibility in individual and gender expression,” allowing anyone to wear nail polish, tattoos and more. The goal: To allow its staff to “bring their best and most authentic selves to work.”
But for Air India, authenticity is far from the goal, and according The Hindustan Times, the new guidelines haven’t been well received. An Air India official told the paper that “some think it is required for building the image of the airline, but others see it to be a little too much.”
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