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American Air Pilots Say Uniforms Are Making Them Ill Too

  • Union says symptoms are similar to those of flight attendants
  • Workers have been offered clothing options, carrier says

American Airlines pilots will be surveyed about reactions to the carrier’s new uniforms after about 100 reported rashes, itching and other symptoms similar to those experienced by hundreds of flight attendants.

Some aviators said recently they had red, swollen eyes and a general ill feeling even though they had been wearing the new clothing since September, according to Dennis Tajer, an Allied Pilots Association spokesman. The union plans to ask members later this week for feedback on reactions and advise them on what steps to take in response, he said Wednesday.

“They have to be fit for duty,” Tajer said in an interview. “If the uniform is making them not fit for duty, then something has to change.”

American distributed 1.5 million pieces to 70,000 employees in its first major uniform change in 30 years. The airline has declined to recall the clothing. 

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants has said more than 3,000 of its members have filed complaints since receiving the uniforms. American sets the count among all employees at about 800, including four pilots.

“Whatever they find in their survey, we’re happy to meet and discuss it with them,” said Ron Defeo, a spokesman for American Airlines Group Inc. “We’ve shown we’re willing to work and find solutions. We’d do the same with pilots.”

Twin Hill, a unit of Tailored Brands Inc., supplied the new uniforms and has worked with the airline and the flight attendants’ union on testing since employees began reporting reactions. So far, nothing has been found to cause the problems.

Read more: The mystery of American’s ailing flight attendants

American offered employees several options to replace uniform pieces, including an alternate supplier for flight attendants and customer-service agents. Pilots have been given non-wool and cotton versions from Twin Hill, and the airline is working to secure another option, Defeo said. Employees also are being allowed to wear old uniforms.

A couple of pilots became ill enough that they couldn’t fly, Tajer said, and others discovered they had symptoms only while wearing the uniforms. 

“We don’t know what we’re going to find out,” he said. “It’s certainly not the same numbers as the flight attendants, but there is some real concern that there’s a bigger problem out there.”

A representative for Tailored Brands didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The pilot cases were reported Tuesday by the Chicago Business Journal.

— With assistance by Lindsey Rupp

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