Oh Boy: Delta’s New Uniforms Are Causing Problems Already

Filed Under: Delta

Only two weeks ago, I wrote about how Delta was launching new uniforms for more than 64,000 of its employees with a bold new ‘passport plum’ color (I still don’t know what that means — what passports are even purple?).

Delta’s new ‘passport plum’ uniforms

At the time I noted:

Perhaps learning from American’s disastrous new uniform roll-out, Delta spent three years testing these uniforms with over 1,000 staff already having trialled wearing them on the job, performing real life duties. They also received completed surveys from more than half of all employees that will be wearing these uniforms as they were designing them.

Problems already

Well perhaps even three years testing was not enough. Business Insider is reporting some employees are already complaining about the following problems, which began just hours after they received their new uniforms:

  • The new apron strap is causing chafing around the neck
  • Loose buttons are already falling off
  • Incorrectly sized uniforms are causing general chafing

In regards to the apron strap, Delta had designed three different versions of the strap and evidently chose the wrong one, so is working on a new version of the strap (presumably testing the chafing of the two strap designs that didn’t make the cut). In the meantime Delta is allowing crews to either tie the apron around their waist (rather than their neck), or not wear the apron at all.

Loose buttons are a quality control issue from the factory in which they were made — they should be able to track these back to the time and location fairly accurately, and ensure this does not happen for any uniforms made in the future.

The incorrect sizing most likely comes down to the fact that these uniforms are not tailor-made, so standardised sizing may not fit some of the 64,000 employees, who are all different shapes and sizes.

I know when I buy a new business shirt, the first thing I will do with it when I get home is to wash it because it is scratchy if you wear it straight out of the packet. Perhaps all staff were supposed to wash their uniforms before they wore them?

Do we have any Delta employees here?

Bottom line

Fortunately there have only been a few dozen complaints about the uniform so far, which pales in comparison to the 3,500 complaints American Airlines received for the uniform comfort last year.

But then again, it has been less than two weeks.

It appears that Delta tried to do everything they could to avoid this through extensive testing, but it seems like even the best planning can’t guarantee these uniforms will be perfect, especially for such a huge and diverse employee base. This gives you an idea of just how difficult it is to design a perfect airline uniform.

Have you noticed the new uniforms on Delta flights?

  1. I saw the new Delta uniform on an agent in Madrid a few weeks ago. It literally was a day or two after the debut, so I was amazed that an agent there was wearing one so soon after the roll out. I saw this woman on the subway going into the city from the airport. Sad thing is that when I saw her boarding the train I HONESTLY thought she was wearing an Air China uniform. It wasnt until she sat next to me that I saw the Delta widget and the Delta on her name tag. I dont know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

  2. I’m just glad that Delta stuck with tradition and kept the gate supervisors in red coats. In Delta lingo they’re referred to as “Red Coats” with great reverence as they have the ultimate power in who gets on a flight, who gets kicked-off a flight, if your counter-offer on a bump voucher will be granted, etc. Somehow Purple Coats just wouldn’t have the same ring to it.

  3. I was on a Delta flight yesterday and my wife complimented the FA on the new uniform. The FA hesitated thanking her, and when my wife asked why, she said “well, they’re really uncomfortable to wear. I’d estimate that more than half of us really can’t stand them.” She also said there were more complaints with the female uniforms than the male ones, but plenty of men hated them too.

  4. @James. Indeed they do! To Czechia at least. DL 411 JFK-PRG. Seriously, passports could do with a pop of colour beyond red, green and blue 😉

  5. Passport Plum is marketing people, it’s not literal. Could have also been Runway Red, Gate Green or Destination Dark Blue. MARKETING.

    And if 64,000 people are using the new uniforms with some loose buttons and a strap that can likely be quickly redesigned on something extra like an apron, I’d say that’s a massive win for Delta overall.

    Yes, the trolls have more fun when it’s “all a flaming disaster” but let’s get real.

    Delta was prepared, had a good process, and these don’t seem major to me.

  6. I considered “passport plum” to be reminiscent of the color of the ink for some of the stamps, especially those from Asia and the Middle East.

  7. Is 24-36 complaints out of 64,000 employees considered significant? I would think that such a low number would be considered a huge accomplishment.

  8. I believe most of the uniform pieces are polyester but there was an option if you had an allergy or other reasoning for asking for a cotton uniform they would oblige

  9. I can see why some crews don’t like the new uniforms. Having seen them in person, the gray suit for the men is absolutely hideous and makes the majority of them look fat. It really should be switched out for a charcoal gray or some color that is more flattering. Also, generally speaking the uniforms are ill-fitting, especially the suit jackets which are often too short. On a larger person, the jacket needs to be longer to create a more flattering vertical line. I do like the purple, though!

  10. Depends how you percept the colours; most of the EU countries have (kind of) “dark plum” passports; France, Poland, Germany, just to name a few major.

  11. Massive difference between some minor chaffing and discomfort and apparent health issues caused by the new AA uniform. As noted by some commentators above this would seem to be a success so far for DL

  12. No wonder why they are always grumpy
    When you buy cheap you end up with scratchy uncomfortable fabric one suffers
    Amazing they can’t afford better with one way 100,000 mile awards
    in coach for short haul domestic travel

  13. 100% agree with @Neil S. Passport Plum was used for travel-related alliteration in the name. It’s meant to be quirky, catchy, and fun. It’s 100% marketing and seems to have worked because certain bloggers can’t seem to shut up about it and no publicity is bad publicity. But really, though, enough with the faux disbelief and pearl-clutching about the name.

    That said, I was on several DL flights immediately after the launch and I thought the uniforms looked great. Overheard lots of positive feedback from other pax on the flights, too. Plus the FAs I spoke with or also overheard were fairly positive about the looks. Seems like a win for DL. The “problems” listed above – aside from the button QC issue – sound more like wearers are being overly sensitive or have not taken due diligence to make sure they ordered the proper size and/or have opted not to have their uniforms tailored appropriately. Never assume anything directly off-the-rack will fit perfectly.

  14. I flew DL this past weekend and saw the uniforms. I’m a VS frequent flyer so at first I thought I was flying Virgin at first.
    Personally I thought the old DL uniform was fine and didn’t seem dated to me so I had no idea why DL had to update its uniforms but I guess they have a ton of money and that they can.
    As with anything new, there will always be glitches. The issues raised thus far sound very minor compared to what AA experienced. I’d say this has been a success overall.

  15. Saw a crew in SAN last week. Up close, the female uniforms looked like spandex. And purple spandex so classy…

  16. I have a close friend who was one of the “testers” of the men’s uniforms. And he loves it. I haven’t heard of any complaints from him or other crew.

  17. I do not fly DL (that airline gives me the creeps). Anyway, I saw a DL FA on the Skytrain to JFK the other day, she looked amaaaaaazing and I was surprised that the color did not make me puke….I liked it! Then again her body was totally banging and she could have walked on to a fashion runway with ease. The uniform looked great.

    I do feel it might be a little unfair to make all “sizes” cram into such a cut, but that’s not my worry. As much as I dislike DL, I hope the issues do not escalate in numbers too greatly.

  18. I flew four legs on Delta last week and complimented the FA on their uniforms each time, as did many people boarding. Each time I received a positive response, mostly “thanks, we like them!” The new safety video shows the history of the Delta uniform as well, and it’s quite interesting. The new uniforms look much better than some from the 70s and 80s!

  19. They need to do fittings at least 3 like all the major international airlines do so the uniform looks good on the wearer and feels comfortable working in it.

  20. Passport plum or whatever they want to call I call purple and it does not belong to Delta. When I see Delta crew wearing the new color the last thing that comes to my mind is Delta. I live uniforms that even from a distance you can identify the airline. Singapore, Emirates and Alitalia are great examples where that works. The new Delta does not.

  21. Three main DL stations we’ve visited had ALL the employees we spoke with tell us how UGLY and UNCOMFORTABLE these nasty uniforms are. They ALL miss the old ones.

  22. There’s always a “settling” in time at the beginning of a major uniform change – and no doubt a lot of people take time to adjust to the man made fabric no doubt made in “China” sorry Trumpman- and some people don’t like change especially the older generation – hope it’s successful it does look good

  23. I know Airline Uniforms can be a big headache in the first few months. For example When my airline first rolled out our new uniforms we were told not to use fabric softener on some items etc. its all about trial and error i guess

  24. Talk to the staff at Air Canada about their new uniform: poor fits, neck rashes and serious overheating (so much staff were told that they don’t need to wear jackets anymore.

  25. Living in Atlanta I fly Delta regularly and I have to say I really think they missed the mark on this new uniform. They can call it passport purple but it really looks like Barney delivering FedEx overnight packages. It’s very close in color to the current FedEx uniforms and the jackets that fan out around the waist look like costumes from an 80s Broadway musical -they really don’t tie into anything that’s on board the aircraft or their paint scheme and they’re not very flattering on most of the employees I’ve seen except all but the very youngest and most slender. Has been fun hearing all of the comments made by other passengers in the terminal and on the plane but generally speaking those comments haven’t been very positive comments. More often they have been other passengers making lighthearted fun of the new look.

  26. Since the introduction of the new uniforms I’ve both flown Delta and been at a hotel where the crews stay. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the looks of the new uniforms (most people call them extremely classy) and the ladies seem to love those purses (or bags?). Guess they could sell them 😉

    As for rolling out new uniforms to about 64000 people: there’s bound to be some issues. Those can be fixed. I think the more important thing is how customers experience the new uniforms; having your customers dislike them is harder to fix 🙂

  27. Last month I flew on Singapore Airlines, Asiana and Vietnam Airlines. Just today, I flew Delta domestically with cabin crew in the new uniforms. Its a nice change compared to their okd uniforms but honestly, if American carriers had stricter standards about weight like carriers in Asia, any uniform would look great on Delta employees. Now, professionalism standards of carriers in America are also an embarrassment compared to Asian carriers. One FA was eating her own food in front of all passengers and even changed shows in the middle of the aisle.

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