American Airlines Flight Attendants Complain That Their New Uniforms Are Making Them Sick

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American Airlines recently unveiled the new uniforms for their flight attendants but now a few months in there are now complaints about health issues caused by the new attire.

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Since the end of September American has distributed new uniforms to 70,000 workers and has so far received complaints about health issues from roughly a thousand staff.

The flight attendant union has since then voiced concerns about the clothing items and urged American Airlines to initiate a complete recall of the attire. LoyaltyLobby wrote about the new uniforms when they were rolled out late September (see here).

The matter has made headline news including in the USA Today (access here).

American Airlines rolled out new uniforms to more than 70,000 of its frontline workers in September. The appearance of the uniforms was well-received, but now American’s flight attendants union is calling for a total recall after saying the outfits have sickened more than 1,000 workers.

Complaints about itching, rashes, headaches and hives surfaced within the first few weeks of the uniform roll-out. American launched an investigation, initially saying that it thought the issues were isolated – possibly some sort of wool allergy.

But the airline’s flight attendants say the problem has become widespread, “including (for) many … who are quite pleased with the look of the uniform.”

In a memo to its members late Wednesday, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) said “we have received over 1,600 flight attendant reports of suspected uniform reactions that include headaches, rashes, hives, burning skin and eye irritation, itching, and respiratory problems — to name a few.”

So let’s break this down. From 70,000 workers the union received 1,600 reports (doesn’t say these stem from individual people). Even if that’s just about 2% of the total number of employees who got in contact with the merchandise on a regular basis.

Can such things be completely avoided? I doubt it. These uniforms are being manufactured somewhere overseas but even if not, it’s not at all unlikely that a low percentage of the population is allergic to certain materials. Just like plenty of people can’t wear lambswool.

American Airlines spokesman Ron DeFeo told The Dallas Morning News that the carrier has already done three rounds of testing but that – so far – all results have been “in line with normal standards.”

DeFeo added to the Star Telegram of Fort Worth that the airline has permitted about 200 attendants to continue wearing their old uniforms. It also has ordered 600 non-wool versions of the new uniforms in the hope of alleviating some of the reactions.

Another round of testing is planned in conjunction with the union. However, the attendants group says at this point, “a remedy that excludes a full recall of the uniform fails to adequately protect our members.”

So let’s assume American recalls the uniforms. The same uniforms that work just fine for 69,000 other employees. Then what? I highly doubt new uniforms will improve much and if you change the material then maybe you hit another representative sample of AA employees who can’t stand that fabric.

Conclusion

It’s obvious that American Airlines wants to get rid of this problem as well and took reasonable steps in order to accommodate the employees who reported issues with said uniforms.

You never know how these materials are manufactured and if the manufacturer has used quality fabric for them as ordered (typical QA problem) but it still remains a fact that the amount of employees complaining about this is in a tiny, tiny minority. As uncomfortable as this might be it sounds like the union is trying to blow this matter out of proportion. I wonder if the complainants have consulted a dermatologist to conduct a proper allergy test?

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  • Richard

    From a quality assurance perspective 1,700 of 70,000 is horrific. The “six sigma” goal is 3.4 defects per million. As as point of perspective, less than 100 of the million Samsung Note 7 phones in the USA have caught fire but Samsung is out some $20 billion. Blaming the union and the employees is not a solution to the problem.

    • globalsuzy

      It would be a big deal for me since I am allergic to all wool!

  • Marlin

    Remember, we live in a world of people who complain about everything. It seems like we need some real hardship for people to realize what real serious issues are. 1st world problem.

  • Thei Zervaki

    So what are you suggesting? To leave them with their itching, rashes, headaches and hives without doing anything? You are really hard core capitalist which is a shame really.

    • Really…

      What do expect from this writer…? His ongoing hatred of anything OneWorld related is pathetic.