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Flight Attendant Union Requesting Recall of New American Airlines Uniforms

Dec. 06, 2016
3 min read
Flight Attendant Union Requesting Recall of New American Airlines Uniforms
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If your American Airlines flight attendant looks a little red, it might not be from being out too long in the sun. It may be due to the new uniforms AA rolled out in September. In total, about 70,000 American Airlines employees — including pilots, flight attendants and customer service employees — received new outfits in the uniform overhaul. Since then, the carrier has received a slew of complaints from flight attendants that these new uniforms have been causing health issues.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants has reportedly received 1,600 health complaints from flight attendants it represents — with issues including "headaches, rashes, hives, burning skin and eye irritation, itching, and respiratory problems." While it does praise the look of the new uniforms, the union is asking for American Airlines to do a full recall due to the health concerns. Since the airline has yet to do so, the APFA is calling for all flight attendants to "contact the AA Uniform Call Center now to return to their old uniform, regardless of whether they experienced a reaction."

American reportedly tested the new uniforms and didn't find any issues. Image courtesy of American Airlines.

American Airlines is countering the union's request for a recall by pointing out that it has done three separate rounds of testing on the new uniforms. None of the tests found anything that should cause health issues. American is planning to perform yet another round of testing — this time to be done in conjunction with the APFA.

In a statement to TPG, the airline says that it has received complaints from flight attendants, but far fewer than the 1,600 complaints the union has reportedly received. AA is encouraging "anyone who has concerns to contact us directly so we can address each concern individually." Solutions already in place include flight attendants being authorized to wear the retired uniform and making custom uniforms from non-wool materials. The airline is also "working with experts to conduct dermatological testing of individuals who have reported reactions so that we can identify any commonalities."

American reportedly hasn't received any complaints from flight crew. Image courtesy of American Airlines.

Interestingly, only flight attendants have complained about the new uniforms — even though customer service agents and pilots are wearing uniforms with the same material and manufactured by the same company, Twin Hill. CNN Money reports that Twin Hill was sued by Alaska Airlines flight attendants who reportedly had similar health issues with uniforms made by the company. Just this October, a court ruled against the class action, rejecting the suit's claims.

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So far, this battle has been rather puzzling. If 1,600 flight attendants are having health issues from the uniforms, there's clearly something amiss. However, it's strange that only flight attendants have reported having issues and that testing hasn't produced any suspect results.

Hopefully the union and the airline can agree on the results of the next round of testing and find a permanent solution for the crew members still having issues from the new threads.

Do you have any thoughts about what might be causing the health complaints?