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United Airlines

United Chastises Cabin Crew on Their Personal Appearance

United Chastises Cabin Crew on Their Personal Appearance
Jackie Reddy

John Slater, United’s vice president for in-flight operations, offered his thoughts on slipping standards of appearance among cabin crew in two separate e-mails. The AFA, the body which represents United’s cabin crew members, says that Slater’s thoughts were positively received by United staff.

United Airlines is asking some members of its cabin crew to smarten up, Skift reports. In two separate internal staff memos, John Slater, the carrier’s vice president for in-flight operations, offered his thoughts on slipping standards of personal appearance at the carrier.

“Perhaps because of the distractions of our industry or the merger of our airlines, over time, we became too relaxed in compliance with established standards. We lost our focus on the value uniform standards have on our customers’ perception of our company,” he said. Specifically, Slater is asking crew members to be more mindful of “skirt lengths that don’t conform to the standard” as well as dirty or wrinkled shoes and even old and worn footwear.

Both emails can be seen in full at Business Insider.

Slater’s thoughts on the personal appearance of United’s cabin crew was issued via two separate emails, the first of which was apparently sent in error as an unfinished draft.

However, Erin Benson Scharra, United’s spokeswoman, told Skift that Slater’s thoughts were received positively by staff. “When our employees feel and look their best, it makes it easier for them to deliver the top-notch service our customers deserve,” Scharra said, adding that the airline is now hosting what it calls “image fairs” to encourage staff to be more aware of their appearance.

Offering her comments, Taylor Garland, spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the body which represents union members of United cabin crew, said, “Flight attendants take pride in presenting a professional image. Uniform standards help to ensure crew members are easily identified and respected as they perform their role as aviation’s first responders. That’s why our flight attendant union works with United to reinforce uniform standards in a way that promotes our professional role in maintaining safety, health and security.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (14)


  1. jonsg

    May 21, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    United’s spokeswoman claims United staff enjoy being berated over their uniform standards.

    Well, that’s a reliable source, then.

  2. FlyingNone

    May 21, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    Impossible to look sharp in those cheap, dumbed down Cintas uniforms…….the same company that provides uniforms for gas station attendants, waitstaff and janitors.

  3. weero


    May 22, 2018 at 4:28 am

    > “When our employees feel and look their best, it makes it easier for them to deliver the top-notch service our customers deserve”

    For the service that United provides, the FAs still looks ways too proper, clean, neat, and professional. One of the two needs to be adjusted.

  4. Rassalas

    May 22, 2018 at 5:27 am

    Mr. Slater is apparently lashing out after no longer being able to #metoo the new flight attendants these last few months. Don’t worry John, you won’t be able to get it up much longer anyways.

  5. Gilthoniel4

    May 22, 2018 at 7:09 am

    I read both versions of the email and I found them both professional and respectful of the crewmembers. As a United FF, I too have noticed the slipping standards in appearance from some of the inflight crew (as well as some of the gate crew). While most present themselves professionally, some have gotten quite lax. I have seen crew members who looked like they had literally just rolled out of bed, having worn their uniform while they slept! They are the exception, but instances of small and not-so-small issues with professional personal appearance happens enough to be noticeable.

    I have been in service industries for many, many years, and what the executive said was true. Customers form impressions based on every facet of their service experience, including the care with which the staff member attends to their uniform and personal hygiene. And, from a general life perspective, we do the same. When someone goes on a job interview, if they take the time to select their clothes carefully and look clean and tidy, it makes a statement to the interviewer that the candidate is showing respect and taking the interview seriously. When a person attends a special function, the care they take in their appearance is a sign of respect to the host. It says, “I care enough about you to make an effort.”

    While no one would want to be “berated” for their appearance, the content and tone of the message did not do that. And I don’t think that the message “chastised” them either. It is reasonable for an employer to remind employees of established standards and to ask that each individual honestly examine their own practices and make improvements if they are warranted. So long as the standards are enforced evenly and fairly among all employees, and those employees are dealt with respectfully, I don’t see the problem. After all, the airline is a workplace, not the employee’s home life. When you’re on the job, you need to be professional.

  6. misdirected baggage

    May 22, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Things have certainly evolved since the 1980’s when even the passengers dressed up for a flight.

    As a long time 1K, I’ve noticed the trend toward a somewhat more “relaxed” presentation among UA flight attendants has accelerated. It’s a low paying job with uncertain hours, challenging conditions and few advancement opportunities – so one can understand why appearances might not be up to ideals, although the trend hasn’t been encouraging. One can also understand why this happens when UA customers are often hoodie wearing shoeless malcontents. Still, the uniform and appearance reflect on both the substance of the airline and on individual crew member’s safety capabilities. I’ve seen far fewer tattered uniforms among SQ flight crews, although I suppose that difference is cheerfully reflected in the price one pays…

  7. Ca77andra

    May 22, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Can you even imagine how this was met by the entitled millennials. I’ll bet they had to go to bed with horrible headaches from rolling their eyes back into their heads :o/

  8. TheBarron

    May 22, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Finally! Everytime I’ve flown UAL I find myself wondering why the overall look of the flight crew, regardless male or female, is a “dowdy” appearance. I’ve seen wrinkled uniforms, so-so hair not being neat, and certainy worn out foot wear. Yes, we passengers notice!

  9. chrisboote

    May 22, 2018 at 9:10 am

    “dirty or wrinkled shoes”

    Shirts, surely?

  10. CEB

    May 22, 2018 at 9:15 am

    While not intended as a personal attack, I get pretty tired of seeing such snarky comments about every management-employee interaction. Slater in no way ‘berated’ any employee and Garland responded in a respectful and cooperative tone on behalf of the FAs. It is the job of management to ensure that the company is putting its best foot forward and yes, MANAGING employee performance. If you must interpret or transform every interaction between companies and people into negative noise, please refrain from commenting. It is truly a disservice to everyone to constantly portray everything in a negative light.

  11. Window_Seat

    May 22, 2018 at 9:37 am

    I’ve never noticed a flight attendant’s “wrinkled” or “dirty” shoes, but then I don’t pay attention to their shoes. I think it’s time for the airlines to start working on image standards among passengers, and tell these passengers who like to be almost naked, to put on some damn clothes, quit the flip flops and short shorts and cover more skin like the majority of us, and you’ll be given more respect, particularly in First and Business.

  12. Burch1

    May 22, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Just fly some of the Asia or ME airlines to see difference, Singapore Air, Emirates, Qatar Airways and EVA Air all put United to shame…

  13. Dan Montgomery

    May 22, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    I agree that the customer interacts with the FA and gate agents. Its always a box of chocolates when it comes to fa’s on flag carriers. They need to present themselves properly and smile on occasion.

  14. alexmyboy

    May 23, 2018 at 5:07 am

    entitled millennials?? You are not a real doctor.

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