Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

American’s Flight Attendants Say New Uniforms Make Them Sick

Updated on
  • Union files grievance seeking option to wear previous outfits
  • Supplier Twin Hill had run afoul of Alaska Air workers

American Airlines flight attendants filed a grievance with the carrier over new uniforms they say have caused headaches, skin irritation and other health problems since being introduced in September.

The airline should either stop issuing the clothing or allow workers to wear their previous outfits, Bob Ross, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said in a letter to American’s general counsel. 

The conflict at American, the biggest U.S.-based carrier by traffic, is at least the second time that supplier Twin Hill has raised hackles at an airline. Some flight attendants at Alaska Air Group Inc. complained several years ago of adverse reactions to their uniforms.

The union at American has requested that the airline reimburse flight attendants for any related health-care costs and set aside $2 million to fund a study of the outfits.

“These uniforms continue to put our members at risk, forcing them to use sick leave and affecting their overall health,” Ross wrote in the Wednesday letter. Flight attendants have reported endocrine issues, wheezing, fatigue, vertigo and other conditions after wearing the outfits, he wrote.

American Airlines Group Inc. has tested the clothing three times and will conduct a fourth examination with the union, said spokesman Ron DeFeo. The carrier also has set up a call center for complaints, and about 300 attendants have reported experiencing a reaction, he said. The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline will cover the cost of dermatological testing for such employees and will respond to the union’s letter within 20 days.

American rolled out new uniforms for 26,000 flight attendants, among new outfits for some 70,000 employees companywide, he said.

Legacy Supplier

Twin Hill, a unit of Houston-based Tailored Brands Inc., has supplied American Airlines merger partner US Airways for the past 10 years and is able to handle a large order, DeFeo said. American’s employee uniforms have over two million pieces, when counting multiple uniforms for each worker.

After the complaints at Alaska, the airline offered employees alternate pieces, according to spokeswoman Halley Knigge. The company switched to another supplier in 2013. A group of flight attendants for the carrier unsuccessfully sued Twin Hill in California.

A spokesman for Tailored Brands, which also operates the Jos. A. Bank and Men’s Wearhouse chains, didn’t have an immediate comment.

— With assistance by Lindsey Rupp

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