Alaska Airlines Reveals New Employee Uniforms

Alaska and Virgin America have been making good progress when it comes to their integration. If history is any indicator (in terms of the other mergers we’ve seen), one of the big challenges they’ll face over the coming years is integrating their employee work groups, which is never an easy task. Alaska and Virgin America employees have different contracts, so creating a joint contract that works for everyone without being prohibitively expensive will be difficult.

As their latest step in the integration, Alaska Airlines has just unveiled their new employee uniforms, which will be worn by all 19,000 employees by late 2019. The new uniforms are designed by Luly Yang, and they describe the uniforms as being “modern and West Coast-inspired.” Alaska views these uniforms as creating a stylish yet approachable look,” thanks to “the bright pops of color, clean lines, and stunning finishes.” The new uniforms have been over two years in the making.

They’ll officially debut next week, as 130 employees — including flight attendants, pilots, customer service agents, and lounge employees — will be wearing the new uniforms for 60 days. After all, they have to make sure that they don’t just look good, but are actually comfortable and safe to wear (American has had huge problems with their uniforms, to the point that they’re going to drop their current uniform supplier).

I don’t envy the job of designers when it comes to creating airline uniforms. It’s easy to just judge the style, but there’s so much else that goes into them, as they have to be functional for all kinds of body types, in all kinds of weather, and under all kinds of conditions. It’s no easy task, and that’s why there’s often so much dissatisfaction among employees when new uniforms are introduced.

Here are some pictures of the new employee uniforms (I appreciate that they use real employees of all shapes and sizes, and not just “typical” models):

Here’s a video “sketching” the uniforms:

Here’s a bit about how Alaska came up with the new design:

Alaska began the project by surveying thousands of uniformed employees; following up with focus groups and work site visits to understand the features different workgroups wanted to see in their new uniforms. Overwhelmingly, the top requests from employees were more pockets and designs that look great on all body shapes and sizes, as well as performance over a range of climates. The collection is designed to be layered so that employees can self-regulate comfort while working in the freezing temperatures of Barrow, Alaska, to the balmier weather of Mexico.

“Working on the Alaska Airlines custom uniform program has been one of the most complex and rewarding challenges of my career,” said Yang. “With 45 sizes per style and 13 very distinct work groups, this was the ultimate puzzle to solve. My hope is that employees feel that they were heard throughout this process, love the collection and wear their uniforms with pride.”

Personally I’m conflicted about the new uniforms. They’re certainly an upgrade over Alaska’s old drab uniforms, though I feel like Virgin America employees will find them boring and not especially stylish. On one hand I commend them for putting some color into the uniforms, though there’s something about them that just looks a bit cheap to me. I can’t quite figure out why, though. The two companies have just had such different cultures and styles, so coming up with any uniform that works for employees of both airlines is no easy task.

Most importantly, I hope that the uniforms prove to be comfortable, safe, and durable, and that employees like them. The greatest benefit from new uniforms is happy employees who are proud to wear them, so that’s really all I care about.

What do you make of Alaska Airlines’ new employee uniforms?

Comments

  1. What would have been smart with the integration is to combine elements of both airlines current uniforms/identities into one. For example a grey base with perhaps a white and blue shirt/dress with a pop of bright red (i.e. a scarf or tie).
    I also don’t envy the makers of these uniforms – none of those dresses seem to fit the women in the photos very well.

  2. Who at Alaska Airlines approved this design?

    My first thought was was they look terrible. And by no means am I a fashion expert. That’s saying a lot.

  3. Jeez, those uniforms for the ladies are hideous. Not flattering or stylish at all. They must have got them at bargain basement prices….

  4. The only stylish women’s outfit is the all-black number in the 2nd photo down (not counting the headline photo). Though I don’t think those heels are very practical – especially on the escape slides. Then again, I’m not sure “prostitute chic” is the right look for an airline uniform.

    The men’s uniforms, as is normal in the industry, look like a pathetic after-thought.

    Wasted opportunity

  5. If the employees are comfortable in them that’s what matters most. I do think a company like Alaska could have a little more fun and give the FA something less formal and more comfortable to work in. Some knit fabrics and clothes that allow better movement instead of this stiff polyester they all seem to love would be a nice departure from the industry norm of 1980s office wear.

  6. I would say they are a bit too drab, the blue dress is going in the right direction and I think the others would be better if in brighter colors. I think the Mens uniforms are better or perhaps men just look better in these colors. I think fairly stylish and the “wrap dress” look is relatively flattering to most sizes/shapes.

  7. A reasonably good effort by AS, but I’m just not a fan of the brown leather shoes or jacket. Seems to me a bit too relaxed, even for Alaskan. However, on the other hand, black leather would’ve made these uniforms even more drab.

  8. Terrible terrible terrible.

    And who took the pics? A pilot or flight attendant? The duct work on ceiling and behind fake walls is showing for the love of God. The cheap fake walls… This can’t go out to public like this.
    The mail pilot in brown leather bomber jacket looks cool but [REDACTED]

  9. Urgh what is it with the US carriers that issue pilots with those cheesy leather jackets that are reminiscent of Top Gun c1986?

  10. WOW, are the comments about the ladies being curvy really necessary?! I sure hope you’re not this vocal when they’re assisting you in flight or at the gate. Lucky, you’ve got a lovely selection of trolls on here this morning.

    On the actual topic of uniforms, I think they’re a step in the right direction for flight crew, gate agents and ground crew. It’s nice to see less “button down” and multiple piece uniforms. (My aunt worked as a flight attendant for 20 years and hated packing all the different pieces that made up their uniform.) If anything, I don’t like the neck kerchief because it looks awkward and I’m sure it would be uncomfortable after long periods of time, especially in warm climates.

  11. How many comments by now criticising completely normal looking women for being not thin enough. I guess all of these comments are written by straight males.

  12. Goodness gracious folks. Is there a reason why we can’t have a discussion about airline employee uniforms without getting deluged by a bunch of nasty, sexist, and hateful comments that do nothing to contribute to the conversation?

    We so rarely have to do this, but I’m going to clean up the comments, and then maybe we can actually discuss the new uniforms and not the physical appearance of the employees who volunteered to model them?

  13. @ Pepe — We hopefully moderated the worst of those too, but if you see others that need addressed please let me know. We really really really don’t like to manage the comments, but have been trying to do more to catch things that are especially gross. It was just shocking to see 90% of comments on a post be so nasty, so I felt like I should say something in addition to editing.

  14. Is the designer know what is Nordic and America? The first image looks like Nordic and makes me think of Finnair, Finnair should just copy and edit a little bit and they will have a good design.

  15. I like the blue dress and moreso the one with blue on the left (their right). I think that one is a little more modern and interesting. The brown dresses though…ick. They remind me of aprons. I actually like the brown shoes on the guys, but don’t find the men’s uniforms that interesting. The ties and the women’s neck scarves seem to be just an afterthought. I get that lime green isn’t an easy color to work with, but either tone it down so that the accessories coordinate better with the clothing or add touches of it somewhere else. Overall, I like this more than the new AA uniforms and hope they’re more functional for employees (and don’t make them break out in hives either).

  16. The uniforms are competent, just like Alaska Airlines. Not hideous but then not a ball hit out of the stadium.

    I like women’s flight attendant hats even though they are out of style and just add to the baggage that FA’s would have to carry.

    The woman’s dress in navy blue (2nd to last photo, far left) is better than the other FA’s uniform. The 3rd to last photo, slightly left, taller blond lady’s FA uniform is also better than the top photos so some AS employees might pick the better looking designs.

  17. What? The local toga supplier is out of business? I’m sure they could have come up with something better than this. With the possible exception of the GSE uniforms the rest are all hideous.

  18. The uniform style looks ugly and unflattering on the employees. Like The Nice Paul wrote, the lady in the black looks like garments from a prostitute. Also, like Endre wrote, the cropping of the photos was poor, if not amateurish…not a vibe an airline should give off! In addition, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but the first picture of the ladies looks like it came from the flyer of a plus size clothing retailer.

  19. The brown and blue colors are bad together and the cut is just wrong for most women. The “short” sleeves are too long! Not classy or stylish. I’m shocked that these airlines consistently fail at uniform design. I feel bad for the women FAs who have to wear these.

  20. Wow, those thigh-high, spike heel vixen boots (photo #2, woman literally on a pedestal) seem just a wee bit out of place. Are those leather pants?

    This is the airline that puts prayer cards on the meal trays? Yikers…

  21. After viewing the animation showing the “sketch” process of developing the designs, I’m much more turned-off that I was when just viewing the photos.

    After viewing that, I am left with the sense that the designer never for a moment understood or even stopped to consider what these people actually do all day (can any of you imagine actually working in these outfits?). That appears it was just a design exercise – designing for a fashion show, not for a complex and challenging workplace environment.

  22. Some airlines use a pseudo-Navy dark uniform, like AC, LH.

    Some have a little flair in addition to that, like AF.

    Some try an alternate color, like light gray, such as NH (ANA) or bright red (CX).

    Southwest uses khaki and very casual.

    AS has chosen neither.

  23. I think they’re actually pretty neat (for an American carrier) and the vertical line off-center seems to provide a lengthening aspect to those who wearers who are more…Rubenesque. I also like they they come in the AS color scheme – and remember it’s just AS now, so incorporating VS is unnecessary and would probably dilute the one-brand message/image. Agreed, though, that the blue/brown combo is a little unsightly in this context with these articles of clothing.

    What I can’t seem to understand is why foreign airlines have managed great looking and functional uniforms for decades while the US carriers plod along with these smock/tunic/housecoat looking pieces of refined flour sacks. Even taking into account age and height/weight of US carriers’ crews against foreign carriers, there are plenty of designers that can cater to both slim and thicker customers.

    I don’t think AS is trend-setting, but I think they’re funky and cook and kind of right in keeping with AS’ brand.

  24. @Pepe , what do you expect exactly? just a few days ago , under the Marriott news, a frequent ID called Chinese” evil race” , the post still safely there. All users felt defended were attached as “paid troll”, those posts still there.

    You know what, it is normal. They got a woman on their team, so anything sexism will be removed; the owner of this blog is gay so anything homophobia will be removed. I don’t see Chinese or Indian or Russian on their team, so who care those evil races , right?

  25. Wow … that’s just … I wanna say “a hot mess,” but I don’t think that quite covers it :-O

  26. @ Lu — I didn’t see that (though I tend to glaze over at anything that particular commenter posts), but have removed it now.

    We’re people too, and far from perfect, but are doing our best to ensure the comments are a productive environment for everyone without heavily moderating. Ideally everyone would participate in keeping the comments from being a cesspool, but that seems to somehow be a challenge for some people on some topics. When you see things you feel are concerning that we might have missed, please let us know!

  27. I just wonder whether there is some controversy in the management ranks of Alaska about these proposed uniforms so they deceided to put the designs out there to test the waters of public opinion before sending off orders to the cutters ‘n tailors. My take is that they should sack the design house and go back to the drawing board! Too many items are truly hideous especially the dark colours for the FA’s. Does the designer hate men to create such awful gear for the guys? And tan shoes with those colours? And new gear for the baggage handlers and maintenance men on display too? Haha, too funny!
    Sorry Alaska, an epic fail ! Start again.

  28. Did I miss any pants on the women? If i had to go down a slide, I would much rather be wearing a pair of slacks than a skirt…

  29. My main problem with the uniforms is that they are not very recognizable. There is not really any key color or common element that would make people think „ah, that’s someone from Alaska Airlines“ when they see them.

  30. Should we sketch a design for CEO Brad to wear each morning
    when he slips in to RSCT to order a beverage and bun?
    I’m sure your sophisticated readers could co-create a sparkling wardwrobe
    taken from the racks of his beloved Nordstrom.

  31. @Claus,

    I’d gather you’re not accustomed to seeing AS a crew or their planes as you’re not from the US, based on your opening quotations being „ instead of “. That said, the blue outfits with the white stripe and the green neckerchief are very much in keeping with AS’ color theme and palette. The warm grey, not so much. The male uniforms also are very much aligned with AS’ branding.

  32. @Tiffany. I call bullsh*t. You’re a hypocrite. There are literally tons of bigoted statements on this site and nothing is ever done. The post about Delta and China still contains such charming missives as

    “Maybe the Chinese can go and fuck themselves.”
    “Tyrants up top, lemmings at the bottom. All evil.”

    I don’t believe for a second that you overlooked them. They just weren’t targetting your preferred demographics.

  33. @tiffany –

    You feature contributors (Nick) who will happily write a whole post making fun of how fat Chris Christie is.

    But as long as it’s a male Republican, it’s fair game? If you set standards, you live by them. This smug hypocrisy and, literally, bigotry is disgusting.

  34. @ William Y. — Forgive my boldness, but that comment seems intentionally obtuse and antagonistic. There is nothing in Nick’s post that references anyone’s personal appearance, or, for that matter, their politics.

    I (and all of us) are open to constructive criticism and being accountable for our posts, but that feedback is more helpful when it’s reality-based.

  35. I hate these hideous uniforms- It looks like they had many group meetings and each person got to choose one aspect of each uniform. No cohesive style! These costumes are trying so hard to be different, that they just look ridiculous and out of sorts. Hey, let’s make things different colors, or one short sleeve, or contrasting suit collars. But we ‘ll keep the colors so drab that no one cares. I truly hate them. Why must the male FA’s uniforms be SOOO nelly? Those who want to nelly it up, will- and that’s fine- but what about the guys who want to look straight. No offense to anyone.
    These outfits SUCK!

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