Crew change: Asiana flight attendants win fight against 'skirts-only' rule

Crew change: Asiana flight attendants win fight against 'skirts-only' rule

Skirts-only uniform ruled discriminatory by South Korean human rights commission
Asiana Airlines will be introducing pants to its female uniform options for the first time in the airline's history.

Following a long-running discussion between Asiana Airlines and its flight attendants union about ending a skirts-only dress code for female cabin crew, the Seoul-based airline says it will be introducing a pants option to its uniform as soon as next month.

The National Human Rights Commission in South Korea ruled the current dress code as discriminatory after the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions filed a complaint about restrictions on dress and appearance. 

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Original designs

This is the first time pants will be part of the female dress code lineup in Asiana's 25-year history.

Asiana is Korea's second-largest carrier and was named Airline of the Year by Global Traveler magazine in 2011 and by Skytrax in 2010. 

Korean Air, the largest carrier in Korea, debuted female cabin crew pants in 2005 when the airline hired Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre to redesign its uniform.

When asked why pants had never been part of its female uniform, Asiana said the policy had more to do with design than discrimination.

"The uniform was originally designed with Korean traditional dress in mind, where women don't wear pants," an Asiana spokesperson told CNN. "We haven't updated the uniform since, but we are in the process of doing so now." 

Overblown issue? 

"You have to realize this is a very small minority who have complained about this," said the spokesperson about local media flurry over the news. "Most of the flight attendants will probably not choose the option even if it becomes available." 

That's precisely the problem, says the union. 

"Even if the rules are officially relaxed, many flight attendants don't feel comfortable doing things like wearing glasses or not having their hair in the expected bun because of what the airline might think of them," said a representative for the airline union. "It's not actual freedom." 

Forget discrimination or design, it's about comfort and safety on the job, say some. 

"There are many cases when we have to stand up and sit down in front of our passengers, which makes {skirts) not only uncomfortable, but sometimes dangerous," an Asiana flight attendant told CNN last year when the issue first arose.

Hopefully, she'll like the new uniform, which is currently in design and slated to debut in a few weeks. 

Do you approve of Asiana's "pants" decision? As a passenger, how important is a flight attendant's uniform? Let us know in the comments section.

Frances Cha is a Digital Producer at CNN Travel. 


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