Flight attendants have forced an airline to change a 70-year-old uniform rule they said made working difficult

Two Cathay Pacific flight attendants in the airline's business class cabin.

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Two Cathay Pacific flight attendants in the airline’s business class cabin.
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Cathay Pacific

  • Cathay Pacific has scrapped a 71-year old uniform rule that forced female flight attendants to wear skirts.
  • The policy change comes after years of pressure and complaints from female flight attendants who claim their uniforms are too revealing.
  • The airline may require as much as three years to create revamped uniforms with non-skirt options.

Female flight attendants at Cathay Pacific are now allowed to wear pants at work. The Hong Kong-based airline abolished its 71-year-old, skirts-only uniform policy after considerable pressure from its female flight attendants and their unions, the South China Morning Post reported.

The new uniform rule is expected to cover both Cathay Pacific and regional subsidiary, Cathay Dragon Airlines.

“There is no progress without change,” the airline told Business Insider in a statement. “Now is the time to make this happen by working together to review the uniforms that accurately reflect the values we represent.”

The current Cathay Pacific uniforms by designer Eddie Lau were introduced with great fanfare in 2011. However, female flight attendants have complained that the skirts and blouses are too short, too tight, and too revealing.

As a result, Cathay’s flight attendants and their union claim the uniforms have made it more difficult for the crew members to do their jobs while contributing to a rise in reported sexual harassment.

The new uniform policy “not only provides us one more option, but also provides us with protection,” Pauline Mak, vice chair of the Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants Association, told the BBC.

According to the SCMP, roughly 2,500 of Cathay Pacific’s 7,000 female flight attendants have indicated they were in favor of wearing pants.

However, it is unlikely you’ll see Cathay Pacific’s female cabin crew in pants anytime in the near future. Since there aren’t any non-skirt options in the airline’s current uniform package, it may have to wait for its next uniform revamp to include the necessary pieces. This could take as long as three years. But, union leaders are said to be pushing for pants to be added in the interim.

Here is Cathay Pacific’s statement in its entirety:

“We concluded yesterday our sincere and frank discussions with the Flight Attendants’ Association of Cathay Dragon on subjects of mutual interests. We are pleased that we have reached an understanding on matters raised. Cathay Dragon is an integral part of the Cathay Pacific Group and we are confident that the unique flair of our Cathay Dragon cabin crew and their dedication will contribute to the success of our 3-year Transformation programme. With particular reference to the uniform discussion: Choice for our people is as important as for our passengers. CX is progressive and contemporary in every way. There is no progress without change. Now is the time to make this happen by working together to review the uniforms that accurately reflect the values we represent. The uniforms that our employees wear is an important subject, one that has been reviewed at regular intervals over the course of our seventy-plus years as Hong Kong’s home airlines. It is imperative that our customer-facing colleagues not only feel pride in wearing the Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon colors but that they also feel comfortable and empowered to carry out their duties to the best of their abilities. Just as we recognize it is important to provide our customers with more choices, the same is also true for our colleagues. We pledge to work with concerned staff groups to re-evaluate the uniforms of our teams across both Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon to ensure they accurately reflect our company’s progressive nature and the value our brand represents.”