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American Airlines’ New Flight Attendant Uniforms Are Making People Physically Sick

Headaches, rashes, hives, burning skin, and eye irritation are the price to pay for the new outfits.

In past few years, many US-based airlines have given their brands sleek and modern upgrades to keep up with the times. However, it seems that one airline’s revamped look for flight attendants might be making people sick and not in a metaphorical sense.

American Airlines has learned of 1,600 complaints from flight attendants that their updated uniforms have led to a litany of symptoms including headaches, eye irritation, rashes, hives, and burning skin since new looks were implemented just two months ago for 70,000 employees.

No passenger or other second-hand complaints have come to light, so whatever the issue is, it seems only to be affecting the wearers of the uniforms and not the passengers in close proximity to them.

In a carefully worded statement, the flight attendants’ union, the APFA, announced a) it’s looking into the issue, and b) these complaints are definitely not a pretense for the way the outfits look.

“Our members should not only look good in the uniform, but also feel good in the uniform. Yet this feeling is not the case for a rapidly growing segment of our membership who has reported adverse reactions, including many flight attendants who are quite pleased with the look of the uniform.”

That last line was likely inserted because in the past employee unions have used “adverse reactions” and “fit issues” to recall uniforms that were just plain ugly.

As for what’s causing the irritation to those wearing the outfits, the jury’s still out. Some are positing that a higher-than-average wool content in the fabric is leading to allergic reactions, but 1,600 reported cases out of a relatively small pool of flight attendants would be disproportionately high.

In the meantime, not only is the cause unclear but so too is a temporary solution. The union is demanding a full recall:

The airline can’t very well revert to the old uniforms for everyone, and switching fabrics or designs could take several months, so it’s possible (and unfortunate) that unless more noise gets made on this front, a contingency of flight attendants could be in discomfort until things get straightened out.

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