“Passport Plum” – Here Are Delta’s New Uniforms

I recently wrote at length about how difficult it is to design the perfect airline uniform. Finding something that looks good on the runway at a launch event is only a very small part of the exercise – they need to be practical, durable and suitable for all different types of ages, sizes and tastes.

In 2015, Nick wrote about Delta’s hiring of fashion designer Zac Posen to redesign its uniforms, which were supposed to debut in “early 2018.”  Yesterday, Delta unveiled its next generation of uniforms designed by Zac Posen to be worn by 64,000+ employees.

For reference – here are the current Delta uniforms that were launched back in 2006, featuring navy blue and bright red, matching the Delta logo and branding:

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.

And here are the new uniforms (courtesy of Delta):

They have maintained their traditional bright red colours, but introduced a bold new colour that they refer to as ‘passport plum,’ whatever that means. I guess it rolls off the tongue better than ‘devaluation dandelion’ or ‘involuntary downgrade indigo’…

Another change is the reduction in the height of the high heels from four inches down to three.

My thoughts

I don’t pretend to be a fashion expert, but here are some general thoughts as an aviation enthusiast who has taken hundreds of flights on dozens of airlines:

  • New uniforms are traditionally met with fairly negative reactions from the travelling public, but I think overall these uniforms look quite good
  • Delta has obviously gone with practicality and comfort, over high fashion choices like Etihad and Hainan did, which is the sensible thing to do
  • It’s wonderful to see them using real employees, rather than catwalk models for their promotional photographs, and I hope this is the new norm
  • I can’t help but think the continued similarity in the tone of red with their very close partner Virgin Atlantic is more than just a coincidence
  • I LOVE the plain purple dresses and matching handbags – the neckline is very vintage Pan Am/Breakfast At Tiffany’s glamour
  • Yet I don’t really get the purple dresses with those red lines pointing in to the stomach. Is it a jacket? Is it part of the dress?
  • The male cabin crew suit and tie combo looks smart, and their purple ties matching the purple female uniforms really make them look like a team
  • The gate agents wearing a red jacket with grey trousers look like parking valets, but at least they’ll be easy to locate in a busy terminal!
  • It’s almost impossible to get ramp/tarmac staff uniforms wrong, and I think these look great

Bottom line

It’s hard to get an airline uniform right, but I think Delta has done a fairly good job here. They are practical while still featuring plenty of splashes of colour unlike the dreary grey some of their US competitors selected.

It makes them stand out (for good or for bad).

Part of the goal of a new uniform design is to ensure the employees wearing them feel pride in doing so — presumably Delta’s multi-year testing and feedback tour has already ensured this will be the case.

What do you think of Delta’s new uniforms?

Comments

  1. For some reason, their new uniforms reminds me of London-Heathrow’s staff uniforms. Am I crazy? Now my mind just routes itself to the idea that they’re British Airways.

  2. @ Eugene – yes female Heathrow employees wear a similar purple suit, but Heathrow men wear a purple jacket from memory.

  3. I don’t care for the grey uniforms on the men. That shade of grey can make a larger man look like an elephant. I would have preferred a darker shade, or perhaps navy. But, I do like the plum!

  4. For what it’s worth, I think the picture of the male flight attendant standing next to a row of seats in a relaxed pose with his arm nonchalantly resting on the seat back while the female flight attendant is pushing the cart wasn’t very well thought out.

  5. I think the uniforms look nice, I just wish that the mens and womens uniforms weren’t so different. I think that all employees of a specific job type should wear the same uniform (of course sized to fit each individual person) in the name of gender equality.

  6. The male uniforms are great, the female uniforms horrendous. Sorry, but as a woman, I wouldn’t want to wear any of these. The purple color is awful and the short sleeve length is just wrong – not flattering on any woman’s arms. The old female uniforms were infinitely better.

  7. For some reason it reminds me of Virgin Atlantic’s uniform but I can’t quite put my finger on why…

  8. To be honest, I don’t really care about uniforms. I only care that they are comfortable enough for employees working long hours, that employees are easily identifiable, and that no one feels any pressure to dress in a provocative or sexy manner.

  9. Are high heels really required for the female flight attendants? Ugh.
    Otherwise the pics look good, and I agree it is nice to show real people of various sizes wearing the uniforms.

  10. It will confuse people when you spot a Delta crew wearing plum color uniforms. Is that Thai Airways? Also, they do not really match red and blue from the interior of their planes.

  11. Why fix something that’s not even broken. I like the old RED Delta dress color on women – it looks real sharp. Very typical of Delta to make changes to make people dislike them such as their mileage award system.

  12. does anyone really care about the uniforms colors ? compared to truly remarkable designs like the SQ ones, all US airlines are rather bland when it comes to uniform color choices … which is totally fine cuz that’s not even in the Top 1000 reasons of why i’ll pick any airline or flight.

  13. The new color doesn’t match the livery. It might be better for WOW or Thai. Odd choice of purple

  14. @ Flyben – in fairness those uniforms were 12 years old. Most airlines would look to update the styles every 10 or so years.

  15. I have to say I’m impressed. I also thought of Pan Am when I first saw them. After recently flying Emirates, I couldn’t help but compare their uniforms to the ones I see stateside. Delta has definitely stepped up their game.

  16. I’m actually a big fan despite the color not really blending with DL’s brand image. The US3 have always gone with dark blue and it’s just so dull and unimaginative. It’s nice to see one of them upping the game with something different, both in the color and the cut.

    Though I hate that there are so many variations. It gives the employees – especially cabin crew – too many options and dilutes the uniformity and alignment of service that a uniform is meant to create. Only in the US will you see every member of one cabin crew sporting a different version of the uniform.

  17. @James: While I agree in updating the 10 years old uniforms I don’t see where the plum color fits into that update. Yes, new design, new fabrics, etc… makes sense but unless Delta is planning to change their livery or update the interior of their planes the plum color does not make sense on this update.

  18. I am in AWE of some of these comments. Good Lord, social media does feed negativity. Anybody who is familiar with the journey of these uniforms would know the Purple Plum represents the blending of Delta’s traditional red and blue into something that is distinctive and elegant. The men’s gray were actually darkened after feedback that it looked dull. The integration of the purple into ties, pocket squares and t-necks gives the men continuity with the women. For an US carrier to get this bold brings back memories of Pan Am and Braniff. This airline junkie loves Delta’s new uniforms and admires the company for its 3 year vetting to the finished product.

  19. @Elteetrav, when you photograph you want something that makes you look alert and heels help that. And I think most airlines require heels until you’re in the air and then they can switch to flats.

    @ Dean. I think you make a good point about job being the defining character as it is clear for the customer, however, many women like wearing the dress and do have the option of a pantsuit.

    Love the new look, miss the dark navy color but it did look a little staid. If blue is on the way out, Does this mean purple leather seats? 😉

  20. The uniforms look great, but a) what on earth does purple/plum have to do with DL’s current livery, and b) I find the term “passport plum” an odd naming choice considering that an American passport is navy blue!

  21. My favorite color is purple. Plum is close enough. Love how it looks with gray. Very snazzy.

  22. Passport Plum? The uniforms should have been primarily Cancellation Charcoal and Flight Delay Fuchsia!

  23. I like Air Asia´s uniform .
    The airline designed them with help of the flight attendants .
    GOOD looking and easy to work in .

  24. ” I guess it rolls off the tongue better than ‘devaluation dandelion’ or ‘involuntary downgrade indigo’…”

    Brutal.

  25. Hmm, I wonder why they chose purple. From what I’ve seen, airlines generally stick with their color scheme when designing uniforms, and Delta is Red with blue, so the purple seems to be random. I like the neckline on the women’s dresses, and the grey suits look nice with the purple accents, but when I think of Delta’s red and blue, I just don’t understand the choice of purple. The importance of course is comfort and ability to perform the job, but then design is important as it allows the crew to be an extension of the Delta brand.

  26. Let me get this straight the major issue everyone seems to have is – deltas livery is red and blue and therefore if the uniforms aren’t red and blue they don’t represent the brand.

    Makes me think of:
    Florals. In spring. Groundbreaking.

  27. The purple reminds me of several Asian carriers, though I doubt those airlines stock uniform pieces in XXX LARGE.

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