British Airways’ new pilot and flight attendant uniforms are here. See the new look and how it’s changed over the decades.

British Airways

For the first time in 20 years, all British Airways employees will sport brand-new uniforms.
The 125-piece collection includes hijabs, tunics, a trench coat, and an industry-first jumpsuit.
British Airways’ new look represents a growing trend to create more inclusive uniforms.

British Airways has a new look for the first time in 20 years  

After first teasing the new garb in January, the London-based airline finally released its new pilot and flight attendant uniforms on Thursday.

A dress, skirt, trouser suit, and a “stylish” jumpsuit make up the women’s wardrobe, while a three-piece suit with regular or slim trousers is available for men. Other items like a trench coat, hijab, ties, tunic, and a long or short-sleeved top are also part of the collection.

The entire line-up consists of 125 individual pieces — the trench coat and dress being the most popular, according to British Airways.

Take a look at the airline’s full collection, and how its uniforms have changed over the decades.

Created by British-Ghanaian fashion designer Ozwald Boateng, British Airways’ new uniforms will be the norm for nearly all employees starting on September 28.

Courtesy of British Airways

Pilots and flight attendants across the system will transition to the new uniforms on Thursday, with airport employees at Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, and New York-JFK airports also getting the new collection.

The rest of the company’s global airport workforce will transition to the new uniforms “over the coming days,” according to British Airways.

This comes after over 5,000 employees, including engineers, mechanics, and ground staff, started wearing the outfits in May 2023.
BA’s ground operations uniforms unveiled in May 2023.

British Airways

These garments include detachable tool belts, clothes with extra pockets, and a fleece-lined quilted jacket, the latter being showerproof to keep employees warm and dry in more extreme weather conditions.

According to British Airways, the employees’ old uniforms have been given to charities or recycled. This is also the plan for the former customer-facing uniforms after Thursday’s official rollout.

All of the garments and patterns have been carefully selected to represent the brand as well as create continuity across the collection.
British Airways’ new uniforms.

British Airways

The suit, which British Airways calls a “fundamental element of the customer-facing uniform,” uses a jacquard fabric that points to the airline’s historic speedmarque logo.

Meanwhile, items including ties, scarves, and the quilted jacket sport an “airwave” design that nods to air moving over an aircraft wing — a detail British describes as a “signature feature” of the collection. 

The jumpsuit is an industry-first, according to the airline. A tunic and hijab have also been created as an option for employees.
British Airways’ new uniforms.

British Airways

“One of my main objectives was to create something that spoke to, and for, the airline’s colleagues,” Boateng said in a press release. “Something that inspired and empowered them, encouraged them to conduct their roles with pride and most importantly to ensure that they felt seen and heard.”

The new outfits were first teased in January when the carrier published a two-minute video of employees sporting the new looks.
British Airways’ new uniforms.

British Airways

According to British Airways, Boateng has worked on the uniforms since 2018, shadowing employees and sourcing feedback from more than 1,500 company staff who participated in workshops to determine the durability and functionality of the design.

Then, the uniforms underwent six months of “secret trials” before the January announcement, including having pilots and cabin crew wear them incognito on cargo flights. Maintenance employees also wore them when working on aircraft at Manchester and Cotswold airports in England, both of which were out of the public eye.

In addition to regular wear and tear testing, the company also trialed the clothes in 0-degree showers and freezers.
British Airways’ new uniforms.

British Airways

British Airways explained the reasoning behind the extreme tests was to ensure “they’re water resistant, durable, and fit for extreme weather conditions.”

Changes were made to the design during the process as employees requested modifications specific to their roles.
British Airways’ new uniforms.

British Airways

For example, mechanics asked for “easy access tool pockets” while ground handlers requested touchscreen-compatible fabric so they didn’t have to take off their gloves in cold weather to operate devices. 

The upgrade comes after 20 years of the same look, which was first introduced in 2003 and became one of the most-recognized uniforms in the industry.
British Airways uniforms from 2003-2023.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

After Thursday, the old — yet still bold and sophisticated design — will become one of a line of former uniforms used by the tens of thousands of employees who have worked for British Airways over the last century.

British Airways was actually the airline that first pioneered crew uniforms after an early version of the company gave them to employees in 1922.
Lieutenant Ellen E. Church was the “world’s original airline stewardess” when she was hired by United in 1930.

Bettmann/Getty Images

According to Airways Magazine, Instone Air Line, which would eventually become the British Airways we know today, designed military-inspired uniforms using pretty much any garment that was available, and they were fit to the male figure. 

Female uniforms would not become available until after the first women flight attendant, Ellen Church, flew her first leg in May 1930 with Boeing Air Transport, which is now United Airlines.

Most early female cabin crew were nurses, so their look reflected their occupation.

After years of dull and ordinary uniforms, the airline eventually spruced up its look with a number of stylish collections in the following decades.
Flight attendant uniforms from 1945 (left) and the 1960s (right).

Hulton Archive/Getty Images, British Airways

As British Airways aircraft improved in the 1930s with more high-class cabins, male flight attendant uniforms soon upgraded to include a white coat to wear when serving meals.

The 1940s was the first time a designer was hired to create a full collection for British Airways (then called the British Overseas Airways Corporation, or BOAC), which resulted in more military-style outfits for both men and women that included items like belts and closed collars.

The 1950s, however, saw female flight attendants ditch their military-inspired uniform’s belt and tight collar for more fashionable pieces.

This includes adding more high-fashion garments, like striped skirts and dresses, wool jackets, and flared trousers. The 1960s also saw the airline add red to its uniforms.
Each crew member pictured is sporting the uniform they were wearing then they flew the Queen.

British Airways

The desire for higher fashion was represented in Sir Norman Hartwell’s 1960s collection for BOAC, which included navy suits, white blouses, and gloves. Men’s outfits continued to be clean and crisp, using dark colors like blue and black.

Hartwell also famously designed dresses for the British royal family.

Another royal dressmaker, Sir Hardy Aimes, would add red to the uniform, complemented by blues and whites — a nod to the UK’s Union Jack flag. Staple pieces were a long red trench coat and the shorter skirts.

Aimes’ successive designs would be used through the 1970s after the merger that created the British Airways we know today.

There were several failed designs, however — particularly the airline’s iconic “paper dress” in 1967, as well as one specifically created for the supersonic Concord in 1976.

PA Images via Getty Images, -/Central Press/AFP via Getty Images

The paper dress — which was actually fireproof and more of a paper-like garment — was worn on flights between New York and the Caribbean, and it was thrown out after one use.

The entire outfit included a flower-patterned dress cut specifically to each flight attendant’s height, as well as tan tights, green slippers, white gloves, and a flower pinned to their hair.

The style didn’t last long, however, with BOAC retiring it about a year after its release.

Meanwhile, the pale blue and navy Concord-specific uniforms — which were made to highlight the exclusivity of the speedy jet — lasted a mere six months as the company didn’t want Concord staff to come off as elitist.

 

Flight attendants from places like Japan and India could also wear cultural dresses from their home countries.
British Airways unveiled new cabin crew uniforms for its South Asian routes in 2016.

Christophe ArchambaultAFP via Getty Images

Specially designed uniforms included garments like kimonos and saris, with this practice being common across the various collections in British Airways history. 

 

Designer Julien MacDonald eventually created the 2003 look, but the airline’s newly unveiled uniforms are more diverse and are intended to represent the “next chapter” of British Airways.
British Airways staff modelling uniforms from the past 90 years at a Johannesburg fashion show in 2012, with Georgia May Jagger in the front center.

Rebecca Hearfield/Gallo Images/Getty Images

MacDonald’s collection, who is a former designer for Chanel, adds options for women and employees of different cultures while still emanating the heritage of British Airways.

“We’re really excited to start the final phase of the rollout of our brand-new uniform for more than 30,000 colleagues,” British Airways’ CCO Calum Laming said in a press release. “The stylish modern collection offers our colleagues more choice than ever to help them display more of their original personalities at work.”

The move comes as airlines worldwide create more inclusive uniforms, like Virgin Atlantic Airways and Alaska Airlines allowing some employees to wear non-gender-specific clothes.

Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

British Airways is also now allowing all of its employees to wear things like makeup and fake eyelashes, while any Virgin employee can wear either gender uniform.

Meanwhile, Alaska is creating a gender-neutral uniform for flight attendants and airport staff and recently updated guidance on things including nails, hair, and jewelry.

Other carriers like Iceland-based Play and Ukrainian airline SkyUp now allow its female flight attendants to ditch the heels and wear sneakers instead.
New SkyUp flight attendant uniforms.

SkyUp

The uniform rules for female flight attendants was particularly strict over the decades. However, a shift in many countries now allows women to wear pants, jackets, and regular shoes when working instead of the traditional look of dresses, skirts, and heels.

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