Is there anything more glamorous than a flight attendant in uniform? Sleek suit-dresses, neat hairstyles, and classic heels make up some of our favorite flight attendant style staples – but not all airline outfits are created equal. Each airline has the option of setting their own strict dress codes, based on color and style choices that match their individual branding.
More often than not, these choices match the glam and glitz of the flight attendant career. Even though the glory days of fashionable commercial air travel are behind us in the Pan-Am era of the 1960s, most flight attendant uniforms are in keeping with the nostalgic feminine style of decades past. The best airlines choose a balance of retro styling and modern cuts to give their flight attendants the most glamorous and professional looks possible.
Sometimes flight attendant uniforms also have an extra level of cultural significance woven into their fabrics. Traditional head wraps, dress materials, and even hairstyles are often included in a flight attendant’s appearance brief, to lend an airline some vibes that feel authentic to its local origins. There are some airlines that you can barely imagine without picturing their flight attendant uniforms in your mind (we’re looking at you, Emirates). Flight attendant outfits are at the frontlines of an airline’s public image – for better or for worse.
If you’re into fashion, history, or traveling the world, you’ll want to learn the uniform facts that we’ve rounded up. Here are the ten best and ten absolute worst flight attendant looks today.
You know your look is good when Miranda Kerr agrees to model it. Qantas unveiled a new flight attendant uniform design in April 2013 with Kerr's help. They feature smart little black dresses with orange and pink stripes across one shoulder, in keeping with Qantas’ sleek yet sunny branding.
Keeping it in the family, this Aussie airline chose to hire Australian designer Martin Grant for the job. Grants take on the Qantas' uniforms are the company's sixth different version of flight attendant outfits since the airline was founded in the 1930s. We think they've done a fab job at keeping up with the times.
With a name like JetBlue, this airline could have easily designed the tackiest turquoise uniforms and we would have accepted them as a fact of life. Instead they've come up with sharp-looking navy options with tangerine tops, thanks to designers Stan Herman and Michael Schwartz.
They took practical advice from flight attendants when designing things like pocket sizes. “I’ve never had that much input from employees before,” said Schwartz at the outfit's unveiling in 2004. He also explained that style was important to everyone involved: “We looked at it as not just a uniform, but as fashion: shorter, sleeker, tighter.” Success!
Have you ever flown with Wow? Their branding is definitely one of a kind. Wow calls itself a "happy, low fare, long-haul airline" - emphasis on "happy." They work hard to make every flight fun, from the little signs on the seats to a cheerful emergency procedure presentation and beyond.
Everything associated with Wow is a bright purple color. The flight attendants have to wear magenta hats, scarves, shirts, skirts, and blazers while they're on duty. This might be fun for a flight or two, but we can't imagine putting those pieces on every single day and not getting sore eyes.
Russia's Aeroflot Airline uniforms are in bright Russian red, but we find their styling to be a bit starchy and dated. Just look at the lapel shapes. How could a designer expect those pointy bits to stay flat for a whole long haul flight? Knotting a red ascot above them doesn't really help.
The whole look is fussier than a flight attendant wants to deal with. Especially bad are the red pointed-toe high heels the cabin crew has to wear, with no options for lower or more supportive footwear. Add white leather gloves and little hats above buns so huge and heavy they could be small tires, and you've got one unhappy flight attendant.
Style in the aisle is so much easier to achieve when you employ one of the world's leading fashion designers. Virgin America hired Vivienne Westwood, who's been shaking up the high-brow fashion scene for decades now. Who better to design uniforms that pack a punch?
Virgin America flight attendants are instantly recognizable in any airport. Just look for the red-on-red layers and striped neck scarves. When most flight attendant uniforms require red lipstick, it's smart to make the look head-to-toe cherry. They match the cheery attitudes of the flight attendants themselves! They also make the cabin crew easy to find when you need 'em.
Virgin Atlantic flight attendants have completely different outfits from their American counterparts. They're still in-line with the all-red Virgin branding, but the materials used in here are a bit more luxe. Cherry red and soft grey give the flight attendants a fun yet polished look that they could easily use as street wear on their many travels. We would!
These are part of the Vivienne Westwood for Virgin collection from 2014, and it's easy to tell that they were crafted by a master designer. Breathable fabrics and lightweight layers help these flight attendants stay cold or cozy up - depending on where they land. Airplane cabins can be pretty chilly, after all.
The last thing you want to be reminded of on an airplane is death. So why do the New Turkish Airlines uniforms look like they belong on vampires attending a funeral? The red and black colors could look totally fine if they weren't used on oversized and grimly-shaped overcoats and shift dresses.
Little hats that take inspiration from Turkish fez hats are kind of cool, but paired with silky bows and damask patterns just makes it all a bit too OTT. Chunky boots and square-toed dress shoes don't help either. All in all these looks are just too dark and gloomy to leave a good impression on the modern luxury traveler.
Lufthansa Airline staff are usually dressed in average-looking blue suit sets, but for Oktoberfest season they get out the dirndls to welcome their passengers. These outfits look a lot like Belle's costume in Beauty and The Beast, but more German and more yellow to match the Lufthansa logo.
The look is kind of cute, but for cabin crew practicality it just doesn't work. Flight attendant uniforms are shorter and tighter than this for a reason. They need clothes that don't drag against tray tables or catch on aircraft equipment, We could easily see these pretty traditional Bavarian costumes getting splashed while the flight attendants are trying to pour tea - or more appropriately, beer.
It doesn't get much more glam than Air France. This airline has employed some of the world's most famous designers since its founding in the 1960s, including Balanciaga and Christian Dior. These days the Air France uniforms are just as gorgeous as ever.
Christian LaCroix designed them in 2005, adding an additional splash of red with small red leather gloves. The sash is a perfect way to tie in the Air France signature red tone and to tie up the famously slim waists of its cabin crew staff. These uniforms are also unique because they don't feature a hat or headpiece - a figurative 'hat-tip' to classic French style's simplicity. Coco Chanel would approve.
Etihad Airways uniforms are the perfect example of traditional/modern fusion styling. They combine 1960s nostalgia with millennial proportioning, but using vintage details in a thoroughly modern cut. We're talking no to shoulder pads, yes to high-waisted pencil skirts, no to fussy button-downs, and yes to color-blocking details.
Chocolate brown and jewel-toned purple don't always make the best pair, but we think that Etihad designers got this one exactly right. The designs were conceived by Ettore Bilotta, an Italian designer with an eye for luxe fabrics. The next time you fly Etihad, look out for polkadots peeking out on your flight attendants' silk shirts.
We're sorry to have to say this about a great Canadian company, but Air Canada Rouge has some of the least stylish uniforms in the air. Their fedoras, voluminous neck scarves, and boot-cut pants make these flight attendants look more like old-timey jazz musicians.
Air Canada has bright red and white branding that's as crisp and clean as a Canadian flag, so we're not sure why designers chose to make the flight attendant uniform to feature burgundy and aqua. The French word rouge means red, not maroon. The cut of the outfits is as unflattering as the color, bulking up the flight attendants around the middle with button-downs and cardigans. Yikes.
At the other end of the skirt length spectrum is Cathay Pacific Airline. They revealed their most recent flight attendant uniform designs in 2011 and the airline staff was not pleased.
Their union filed a complaint about the skirts being too tight on their hips and the shirts being so short that they showed their stomachs when they reached up to get passengers' bags. Worst of all, a spokeswoman from the union said that the uniforms had led to an increase in sexual harassment incidents on Cathay Pacific flights.
Flight attendants have enough to worry about without dealing with gross passenger comments and advances, so any uniform that helps that happen is bound to land on our worst list.
Instantly recognizable and effortlessly glamorous, Emirates flight attendants have one of the most chic and comfortable outfits a cabin crew member could ask for. The veiled hat and tan skirt-suit is so iconic that the airline hasn't opted to change it since 1997.
If you haven't flown Emirates before, you might not have ever noticed the stylish detailing on these classic uniforms. The signature hats are worn mostly for public appearances - they can take them off while they're actually in the air. Also, the next time you fly with them, take a peek at their jackets as they serve you your coffee. You'll notice some chocolate and burgundy pinstripes running sleekly down their sleeves. So chic!
There's something to be said for going against the norm when it comes to designing uniforms. While most other leading airlines dress their flight attendants in dark and solid colors and keep the look generally standard, Korean Air stands out. It dresses its flight attendants in soft and bright pastels, and accessorizes them with quirky headpieces that passengers are sure to remember.
These unique looks were designed by another Italian haute couturier, Gianfranco Ferre. It gives the flight attendants the option of wearing skirts or pants, which we think every airline should do! Korean Air flight attendants easily pull off both options. Look out for them if you ever visit Korea.
We suspect that this Japanese airline must have saved some money when producing their flight attendant outfits. The uniforms are so skint and skimpy that each dress probably uses about half as much fabric as a high-quality Hainan Airlines suit jacket.
We get that the airline wants to showcase how cute its flight attendants legs are, but really guys? These professionals spend their workdays reaching up high into overhead compartments, bending low to retrieve trolley snacks, and performing a bunch of physically challenging tasks that you would never want to do in a miniskirt. Not cool, Skymark!
Thai Airways' motto is "smooth as silk." Can you guess what fabric their flight attendants are wrapped in? These gorgeous designs are traditional Thai dresses, only worn during flights - they have other corporate-looking suit skirt outfits for helping passengers board. The dresses are also only worn by the flight attendants who are actually Thai citizens. Any Thai Airways flight attendants with international origins must always wear the purple corporate suit options.
Every single flight attendant does get to wear a fresh flower on their lapel, though. The flowers are usually purple and white, tying the airline's lotus logo and the cabin crew's uniforms together in a subtle way.
Can you imagine if your work uniform was head-to-toe BALMAIN? That's the level of luxury that Singapore Airlines' flight attendants experience in their everyday life. Pierre Balmain designed these pieces as part of his 'Singapore Girl' project for the airline. That's the same designer who dresses the Kardashian-Jenners, Jessica Alba, and Jennifer Lopez, and whose latest campaign features the Hadid sisters lounging in patterned jackets.
The Balmain brand is known for its intricate patterns, and that's exactly what Pierre brought to Singapore Airline's new look. The uniforms feature traditional Singaporean colors and shapes like flowering vines and interlocking paisleys. A scooped neckline and minimal jewelry give these flight attendants a clean, modern look, and we're into it.
Air New Zealand's latest cabin crew uniforms were revealed in 2010 to very mixed reviews. Some people thought the outfits were okay. Most people thought they were tacky, with reporters comparing the patterns to "Barbie's wallpaper." Worst of all, plenty of Kiwi people considered the uniforms so ugly that they were disrespectful to New Zealand's native Maori culture.
Even the flight attendants themselves were reportedly unimpressed. The designer, New Zealand's Trelise Cooper, created the contemporary new look to be comfortable above all.
"I fly regularly" she explained, "and understand that functionality for the wearer is just as important as how you look." We wish she put a bit more thought into the appearance this time.
Hainan Airlines has been ahead of the fashion game for a while, so it was no surprise that its latest flight attendant uniforms wowed crowds when they were unveiled at Paris Fashion Week 2017. They come from the mind of Chinese high fashion designer Lawrence Xu, a big name in the haute couture community.
Xu usually dresses movie stars on and off-screen as a fashion consultant for Chinese films and a red carpet fave, and he brought all of his skills and glam to the Hainan Airlines job. With shining silk wave motifs and traditional Chinese patterns, Hainan flight attendants are definitely some of the world's best dressed cabin crew members.
References: The Telegraph, Style Magazine, Thrillist, Confessionsofatrolleydolly.com, The Daily Mail, South China Daily Post, Smithsonian Magazine