Air India has just updated its appearance standards for flight attendants, and there are some interesting requirements in there.
While most airline appearance standard updates in recent years have given employees more personal choice (like updating standards around gender, tattoos, piercings, etc.), Air India is getting stricter. These changes come as Air India has been privatized, and the airline is trying to become more competitive.
Air India’s updated flight attendant appearance standards
Air India has published a new 39-page handbook with uniform grooming guidelines. While some of the rules are what you’d expect, others are… surprising. A couple requirements in particular stand out.
For example, if an employee has gray hair, it must be colored in a “natural” hair color:
“Grey hair must be colored regularly only in a natural hair color. Salt and pepper look, and grey hair is not permitted with uniform.”
Along similar lines, if an employee has any bald patches, they have to completely shave their head:
“Bald look is allowed for crew with male balding patterns. Crew with U and V shape hairline on crown, visible scalp and large bald patches must keep a full bald look. Head must be shaved daily for a clean look.”
I’d say those are the two most drastic requirements, though in general these standards just hold crews to a very high, and borderline unrealistic standard. I’m also not sure to what end some of these restrictions are being put in place. For example, flight attendants aren’t allowed to read:
“Reading items such as newspapers, magazines and story books are strictly prohibited throughout the flight, however Cabin Crew may read the In-flight magazines, In-flight Menu, and Safety Manual as a quick reference.”
Why, exactly? If a flight attendant is on a 15-hour flight and in the galley, I’m happier if they are entertaining themselves by reading a book, rather than chatting loudly with colleagues.
You can see the entire 39-page document for yourself at this link.
Are these restrictions necessary?
Air India has 99 problems, like the fact that most of the carrier’s planes are in awful condition. Air India’s product is woefully uncompetitive, especially in business class. Meanwhile if you ask me, flight attendants having gray hair isn’t among Air India’s issues.
Aside from just giving people the ability to present themselves how they’d like, I’d like to say that personally I prefer someone who embraces that they have gray hair, rather than trying to hide it with some bizarre, unnatural hair color. Admittedly that’s just my own preference, but my point is that I’m not even sure these guidelines objectively reflect what’s considered to be a “better” appearance.
Air India hasn’t exactly done a great job historically with morale and getting all staff on one page. I feel like this 39-page guide does more damage than good when it comes to improving the situation at the airline.
Air India has published updated appearance standards for flight attendants. Among other things, the airline is banning gray hair and bald patches. Rather, flight attendants who have bald patches will have to shave their head daily, while flight attendants who have gray hair will have to color it with a “natural” color.
I suppose this is still less strange than when Pakistan International Airlines told flight attendants they had to wear undergarments…