Aug 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

United Airlines to update crew hair, makeup rules to be more inclusive

Picture of United crew members

United Airlines crew members at San Francisco International Airport. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

United Airlines is relaxing its rules on flight attendants' appearance in an attempt to be more inclusive.

State of play: Starting Sept. 15, United's customer-facing crew members will be allowed to have visible tattoos and workers of any gender can wear "natural-looking makeup" and nail polish. They will also be permitted to wear their hair down.

Yes, but: Tattoos must be smaller than employees' work badges and only shoulder-length or shorter hair can be worn down.

What they're saying: "We’ve updated our appearance standards to empower our employees to represent themselves in the way they feel most confident," United said in a statement.

The big picture: Uniforms for flight attendants widely adhere to rigid gender norms, but some airlines are starting to change their dress policies. For example, Virgin Atlantic in 2019 began allowing female crew members to forego makeup and wear pants instead of skirts, per CNN.

  • Other airlines like British Airways demand that male employees' hair "meet a conventional style which is appropriate for a professional environment." They're not allowed to shave their heads or keep their hair long.
  • An Alaska Airlines attendant said in a letter in June that the company uniforms discriminate against nonbinary people by enforcing a gender binary.

What to watch: United added the rules will expand to include other employees, including pilots, later this year, CNN notes.

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