Your Flight Attendant Won’t Be Getting Into The Holiday Season At United

Airlines face a challenge around the holidays. Do they insist on a standard image for their frontline employees, or do they allow some festive creativity? And if employees can deviate from standard dress, what guidelines should be applied?

The first time I ever heard the festive Night Before Christmas safety brief it was on a United flight, though that was at least two decades ago. Now United Airlines appears to be taking a more conservative stance this holiday season, cracking down on flight attendant holiday dress.

Paddle Your Own Kanoo reports that United Airlines flight attendants aren’t being allowed to wear santa hats or holiday aprons as we approach Christmas. The War On Christmas is, apparently, being waged at United.

[F]light attendants have been told they are forbidden from wearing traditional festive accessories in the run up to Christmas.

Santa hats are expressly forbidden and so too are reindeer antlers and the humble Christmas jumper. Flight attendants have also been warned that wearing their own Christmas themed apron is off bounds as well.

The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), which represents United’s 22,000 cabin crew, has told it’s members that they shouldn’t wear anything that might detract from their “professional image as Safety Professionals.”

United’s flight attendants have been informed they will be permitted “to wear one “conservative” holiday accessory.” Male flight attendants may wear a “conservative holiday tie, pin or festive socks permitted” while females are given additional latitude with one “holiday-themed scarf, earrings or necklace) (they may wear Christmas socks, just as male flight attendants can, but only if they are wearing pants).

If flight attendants were being told that they couldn’t deviate from official uniform because of the high quality image the airline is trying to project, that might get some chuckles but that would also be admirable. But there’s concern that holiday accents will detract from the image of United flight attendants as safety professionals…?

Ironically this year United started allowing flight attendants to show personality during safety announcements. They’re allowed personality verbally, it seems, but not visually.

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, 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Most likely certain political segments of society have complained about FAs wearing Christmas themed items. The claim about it being something to do with professionalism is nonsense. I think the issue of being viewed as professional when it comes to safety briefings went out the window when they started turning safety briefings into showtime on some flights.

  2. Gary – It’s not clear from your post or the underlying article you linked to whether this is the decree of the airline or AFA. The headline suggests that it’s the former, but the quote suggests it’s the latter

    Any idea who’s laying down the law on this?

  3. @Greg I believe the union represents more than just United FAs and other airlines aren’t imposing this severe of a restriction so based on that it appears the restrictions are coming from United itself.

  4. I’m an atheist but LOOOVEE XMAS! I spent the afternoon watching the Bears Packers game at a pop-up Hanukkah bar in Chicago. We should worry less about offending and more about celebrating.

  5. I flew GRU-ORD a week ago and a short, bold, male flight attendant was wearing a couple of Christmas earrings. Big ones. I have nothing against Christmas, but that flight attendant did not look professional at all. Of course, it is just my opinion and maybe everyone else in the flight thought he looked cute. I did not.

  6. I flew UA from Barcelona to Newark on Halloween this year, and all the attendants had festive Halloween headgear (a U-shaped thing on their head with small Halloween-themed items (like bats) at the end of small springs), and it was definitely a big hit with the passengers. UA should definitely allow their employees to be creatively festive – and really be more like fun-loving SWA flight attendants in general. People having fun at their jobs give better service!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *