Last week, Air France announced that it will launch a new “millennial” airline called “Joon” (a play on “jeune”, the French word for “young”) this fall, and despite offering little information on what the service will entail, the airline shared a glimpse at the uniform design. The uniforms, unlike that of their mainline predecessor, are much more casual, and intended to be more youth-oriented and current than stuffy and conservative.
I don’t like them at all.
Now, before anyone can accuse me of being a pitchfork-wielding curmudgeon who doesn’t get the kids of today (which, at age 38, I admittedly can be), my distaste for the uniform design is not just aesthetic. While my personal dislike for the electric blue, black and white palette worn with white sneakers – sneakers! – is just my own taste, I also had some practical concerns. It also then got me to question my own criticisms and opened up a larger question – what does, and should, a uniform say?
From the time we are invited to initial flight attendant training, we are ingrained with the idea that our appearance as a crew dictates a lot to our customers. By maintaining a neat, put-together and professional appearance, it communicates that we can be looked to in an emergency. It reassures them that we have the ability to handle any issues that may arise pertaining to safety and also service. I hate to use the word “authority,” because in these contentious times of passengers vs. crew, people seem more resistant to the idea that we should have any, but in the air we need to maintain some modicum of it because it is our job. We are the ones in charge of the cabin and without it, flying would be a lot more miserable than it already can be. If we are dressed sloppy or unprofessionally, it seems much more likely that someone will attempt to defy any kind of crew directions they dislike. A flight attendant in a nice uniform is more likely to command that respect – respect that has been rapidly diminishing of late.
But this again brings me to the question: What is a ‘nice’ uniform?
Many of us, even outside the industry, get excited when an airline unveils a new uniform design. We all debate what we love and loathe about them. And of course those of us who fly for a living also imagine if we would look good in them ourselves. Sometimes it feels petty to get swept up in that excitement, but it’s fun to watch airlines reinvent themselves. It feels good to see a trend toward a professional look coupled with style (which Air France itself absolutely gets right), but when carriers go too casual, it invokes the wrong feel. Flying shouldn’t be a formal affair per se, but it’s getting a bit too out of hand these days, between passengers wearing pajamas aboard flights to regularly jutting bare feet into their neighbor’s personal space. Why encourage that further by putting crews in sneakers and polo shirts?
I think crews, especially in this day and age, should be edging more toward smart, stylish suits, tailored dresses or flattering trousers and away from the “I just got off my shift at the Apple Store and am on my way to see my friend DJ in Brooklyn” look. We need not dress as our demographic to appeal to them. Service and style elements should be tailored toward them, but I don’t think airlines ought to go too Casual Friday with their crews’ appearance.
Does that make me old and behind the times? Perhaps. But I still believe that we as crew should impart a feeling of reassurance for you, as a passenger, that we are well-trained and knowledgeable about what we do. That we can not just evacuate a plane but perform CPR and tactfully handle a problem customer if the need arises. I believe in service and that you should have high expectations for the service I provide based on what you see. Will Joon provide that? We only have their uniforms to go by for now, which is by design. The uniform, as always, is left to say it all.