American Airlines Cracking Down On Flight Attendants Who Violate Appearance Standards

American Airlines is cracking down on flight attendants who aren’t wearing their uniforms correctly, or who violate the carrier’s appearance standards. A message went out from a flight service manager to flight attendants earlier this week. It announces a goal of 100% uniform compliance, and warns that flight service managers will be in airports conducting checks and to write up crew.

The message to flight attendants when their current uniforms were launched at the start of March 2020, just as the pandemic took hold, was that they were going to prioritize making sure uniforms are worn as instructed, to the point of specifying when the winter coat can be worn and when cabin crew can roll up their sleeves.

Here’s the Flight Service uniform standards guide that was issued at that time. In addition to detailing how the uniform should be worn it also reinforces behavioral rules such as:

  • Crewmembers “may not purchase or consume alcoholic beverages, gamble, or sit ata bar, including for the purpose of consuming food.”

  • In addition they aren’t supposed to use “cellphones, smart watches, headphones, etc.” while “onboard the aircraft with customers”

  • They cannot sit on baggage belts or electric carts, and avoid chewing gum in customer view

The female dress may not be more than 1 inch above or below “the crease at the back of the knee.” The ‘all season coat’ may only be worn “during extreme cold or inclement weather while outside the terminal in the elements.” I think that makes the coat not ‘all season’. And who is wearing a vest with no shirt underneath?

Some of the airline’s grooming standards surprise me. For instance, female nail polish has to be the same color on each nail (but no green, orange or yellow). No glitter or artwork on fingernails is permitted. If any nails chip then “all polish must be removed.” While some rules seem strict, I predicted that enforcement wouldn’t be meaningful and thus rules wouldn’t be followed over time. That was true, which is why there seems to be a new push to add enforcement.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. The grammar in that notice from AA should get written up. Commas and periods used incorrectly throughout.

  2. For years after US+HP there were FAs defiantly wearing ratty old America West gear inflight. For years after UA+CO there were defiant FAs announcing they were “your proud Continental crew welcoming you to Newark.” As a class of employee I don’t know how they can be “managed” in the strict sense at all.

  3. Talk about misplaced priorities. Plentyyyy of room for improvement on several key FA service elements, and somehow AA chooses to focus on nail polish and smartwatches.

  4. i love to see the FA’s playing on their phones while ignoring passengers who are boarding and skip the PDBs. Makes me wish I was a union worker, too.

  5. The 80 year old FA’s on the FRA-DFW flight didn’t seem too concerned about their appearance. The three on my side of the FC cabin wore completely different outfits and I don’t remember any of them representing any particular airline. One looked like she just got off the golf course, one picked up from a senior home, and one a random passenger that always wanted to see a FC cabin. They are going to be in for a big shock when they read this story. Ha.

  6. @Gary Has AA explained how they plan on determining whether how they plan on checking whether or not men are wearing appropriate undergarments?

  7. Somebody might start by pointing out to the HDQ weenie there is a difference between complaint and compliant and then they can discuss adherence to all their ignored standards.

  8. “they aren’t supposed to use “cellphones, smart watches, headphones, etc.” while “onboard the aircraft with customers”

    There go half of all AA FAs.

  9. @Tim_j they should do it because IT’S THEIR JOB. Not getting paid for it was something that THEY negotiated in their union contract with AA. Same thing with appearance standards. The FAs certainly scream bloody murder when they don’t like new uniforms.

  10. @SOBE ER DOC ,

    You might want to work on your 6th and 7th step some more …. The only job an airline has is to get you from point A to point B safely per the contract of carriage you agree to.

    All that other stuff is just fluff !

  11. “non-complaint uniform report” – I assume that’s for the FAs whose uniforms are correct?

  12. Good. Broken windows. Start putting those on notice who feel that it’s okay to violate “minor” rules. Why bother having standards if AA isn’t going to enforce them. This may even lead to AA getting rid of the flight attendants who can’t/won’t follow simple rules and make AA a better company overall. In reality, inflight “service” can’t get much worse….at least domestically. If they can’t hack it at AA then they can quit (or get canned) and they can see how long Home Depot will put up with them refusing to follow company instructions. It’s worth a shot.

  13. From looking at the photo, I didn’t know one could be 7 feet tall or weigh close to 300 lbs. to be a FA? But maybe they all work on really really HUGE aircraft that has lots of room. My mistake then.

  14. These quotes are fake.

    ReAAL quotes from AA aalways have aa double AA. For examples, flight aatendaants must never drink aat aa bAAr while in uniform.

  15. Brady literally just said last week they’re working on a new uniform because the current one is too formal. No consistency in messaging

  16. Seeing people rant about union’s protecting workers for violations like this, or skipping PDBs is interesting.

    Are those same complainers absolutely incensed that cops murder people with impunity, protected by their unions?

  17. @Tim_j you are just quoting anyone anytime they don’t want to do something. The FAs negotiate a contract that includes minimum work expectations. Therefore…IT IS THEIR JOB. If they do not do something in their contract they are not doing their work. Period. End of story.

    The contact the airline has with their workforce and the work expectation therein has absolutely nothing to do with the Contract of Carriage with passengers except that the CoC sets the bare minimum expectations for the FAs. The airlines can and do expect more.

  18. “Let me see your nails! Out of compliance!!! I am going to write you up so everyone will know. Can’t you learn??? We told you, stupid. Now give o take off that polish now and don’t drink the nail polish remover you lush.”

  19. I think AA management is focusing on the wrong thing. I appreciate a tasty meal, friendly service, a comfy seat, a few good movies and a clean bathroom. Spending an extra few dollars on premium cabin meals would make me happier than seeing a FA that AA felt represented their brand image. If a FA wants green nails and bright pink hair, and to wear an all season coat through the terminal, I couldn’t care less.

  20. GOOD! We have a dress code at work and it’s part of the job. It’s the airlines image and needs to be professional.

  21. It’s attitude and service that count!!
    Unfortunately, it hit or miss now days.
    Total lack of consistency make each flight a wild card situation.

  22. Not enforcing so called “grooming standards” has been a reality for years at AA. Once the motley crew from USAir was injected into the mix it just got worse and worse. To try and do something about it now is a complete waste of time. As pointed out in other blogs, more attention needs to be paid to the basic passenger services they seem unwilling to provide. On the other hand, the passenger contact ground personnel uniforms compliance is right there with the F/A’s. Walk through any AA terminal and it looks like someone called a “come as you are” party. The check in counters are littered with water bottles, Starbuck’s and sometimes their munchies.

  23. I guess my comment will be a counterpoint to the bulk of the comments I have read. I think that stricter standards for FA dress/appearance are much called for. I appreciate seeing and interacting with professional people…I’m retired now, but in my former profession, “appearance counted,” and my appearance was a basic part of my professional persona. I’ve long admired the apparently high uniform and appearance standards of many foreign (i.e., non USA) airlines. In the name of “personal freedom,” we too often sacrifice a certain level of professional appearannce (or behavior). A “perfect world,” is not, IMO, one in which everyone can just do anything they want, anywhere, anytime. We behave with such an entitled attitude. Not all strict conformity is bad; context, please!

  24. When they merged, AA dressed classy, US Air east professional, and most America West were sloppy. Thankfully, it will be be one standard.

  25. Source please. I have seen no correspondence (except of external reports) of the sort since about Springtime of last year.

  26. Q. What is the meaning of “non complained?”
    Q. What is a “non-complaint” uniform?
    Anyone?

  27. Give me an Asian or European flight crew any time. To this day, I am amazed how polished and professional they look when walking through the airport. They all walk together – flight deck and cabin crew – all dressed to the 9’s. Meanwhile, in the good old USA, they come schlepping through with their venti Starbucks drinks and fast food bags – Lordy mercy, our personal and professional images, as Americans, are deplorable..

  28. Passenger comments are irrelevant when most show up dressed like bums, in PJs or clothes that should have been donated or trashed years ago. And let’s not even bring into the discussion people wearing tights and yoga pants that make them look like they are stuffed in sausage casings. FACT. The era of Business Casual have really changed on what AIrlines expect and hope to achieve. AA created their own mess with uniforms when they hesitated to address the toxic uniforms provided by Twin Hill and allowed Staff to wear basically anything they wanted with little guidelines. The current AA uniform is acceptable but Personal Grooming standards have slipped especially amongst the Women with ratty looking unkept hair and the multi colored claw like fingernails and eye lashes that look like brooms……totally Fn ridiculous.That needs to be addressed.

  29. I fly weekly with the airline its about time the overall grooming leaves much to be desired as does the service with peanuts and refreshments on 4 hour flts meanwhile flight attendants entertain themselves with phones in back of the airplanes. I would also look at ramp service dressed as they please in sneakers.

  30. I applaud efforts by AA to enforce uniform standards. It isn’t addressing the root of the problem though. A fundamental problem is most of your FA’s and gate agents have lost their passion to deliver consistent, good customer service. Taking pride in the way you present yourself doesn’t matter to someone who doesn’t care about the job. Love it, or hate it, but the reality is 5,000 of your flight attendants have 35 years or more with AA, which itself is a collection of airlines from a bygone era. They are least likely to follow a rule or guideline from management half their age. I’d focus on committing to a retirement package to encourage those who have stayed around to recoup personal financial loses from bankruptcies to transition away from the airline. If its a fair separation package, it will be well received. This immediately sends a message you value their experience but are ready for a refresh. If those staying are not onboard, then difficult conversations must occur.

    Also best of luck enforcing uniform standards at stations without managers. I know union contracts and language can be quite restrictive regarding who can provide feedback and initiate disciplinary action.

  31. @ Kristen Bello:

    Q. What is the meaning of “non complained?”
    Q. What is a “non-complaint” uniform?

    It’s non-COMPLIANT.

  32. This article cracks me up, let’s make sure they have a pin or name tag but it’s OK for a male flight attendant to wear a dress, make up and high heals no stockings with hairy legs, really? Noticed that wasn’t in the article? So sad that American Airlines has become who they are. They use to be the best in the air, now just a sad replica of US Air!

  33. I have been flying with frequency on American Airlines as of late. On my most recent AA flight from PHL to CDG, I observed several of the flight attendants looking very sloppy and what I would describe as having an unkempt experience. One male FA had long out of control hair in some sort of upsweep mess, one male FA had one dangling earring and a female FA had hair that was very much out of control. Where is the professional look here? If these folks do not know about proper grooming, one would think that by the time they graduate from American Airlines flight attendant school, they would have learned to carry themselves with a dignified appearance. Their appearance also seems to mirror their lackluster attitude. Unfortunately my recent experience on American Airlines has been very substandard. American Airlines FAs could learn by observing the cabin crews of Air France, TAP Portugal, Lufthansa and other non American carriers.

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