Air India to cabin crew: No balding spots and no gray hair

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Air India has issued new grooming guidelines for its cabin crew, as the new owners of the carrier, Tata Group, looks to improve the perception and the image of the airline internationally. 

According to the guidelines, seen and reported by Livemint, both male and female cabin crew will have to change their grooming habits. The new rules were put in place because “representations and images of its crew members are not as per international standards,” local media quoted Air India crew as saying. 

For men, “deep receding hairlines and male balding patches must keep a clean shaved head or bald look,” read the guidelines, demanding that the head must be shaved daily in that case. Gray hair is not permitted for either male or female cabin crew, and “must be regularly colored in a natural shade.”  

For women who ensure the safety inside Air India’s aircraft cabins, options are wider, as the airline has issued a hair color shade card. Yet “blonde hair colour and streaking is strictly not permitted,” and the head fibers must be stylized according to the guidelines issued by Air India. 

“Hair must be neat and styled according to company hair guidelines. Very high top knots and low buns resting on the neck are strictly not permitted. The bun must be made in the centre of the crown. A donut must be used for making a round bun.” 

Changes to the uniform 

The airline’s new rules on uniforms are very stringent as well. 

Men can only wear “black calf-length socks without logos,” while for women, “calf-length stockings (sheer ones and matching the skin tone) are mandatory for flight duties with both a saree and Indo western uniform,” continued the guidelines.  

A newly-issued cardigan “can be worn for boarding and deplaning (during winter months only) and inflight for lull periods on LH and ULH flights throughout the year.” However, wearing a cardigan is prohibited during in-flight service. The cardigan replaced the now-banned black blazer and an apron, both of which were “discontinued and not to be worn on board.” 

Male crew has to wear black uniform jackets throughout all stages of the flight, namely boarding, service, and deplaning. “Personal tie pins are not allowed. Crew can wear a tie without the tie pin if not issued,” added the new rules. 

In terms of accesories, for men, only a single ring – a wedding band – or a Sikh Kada is allowed.. “Kada with a maximum width of 0.5 cm thickness in gold or silver without any design, logos or stones may be worn. (No bracelets),” the instructions detailed. Female cabin crew are restricted to earrings that are no other than gold or diamond studs, are round, and have no shape, design, or ornamentation. 

“Pearls are not allowed. A small bindi is allowed with a saree only (optional) and must be within 0.5 cm in size. Big-size bindi is not permitted,” explained the guidelines. Still, two rings (with a maximum width of 1 cm) are allowed, with one worn on each hand. 

“The crew must wear complete make-up as per the new uniform guidelines for all flight duties using the company shade card only. Eyeshadow, lipsticks, nail paint and hair shade cards are to be strictly followed as per uniform. Personal shades in these four products are not permitted,” clarified the makeup rules Air India’s grooming guidelines. Nail polish must either match the uniform or cabin crew can opt to wear gel nail polish and French manicures only if the two are well-maintained throughout the working hours. 

Shifting winds in cabin crew uniforms globally

While Air India’s latest guidelines follow very strict rules, other carriers around the world have relaxed their rules and are modernizing their approach towards cabin crew uniforms. 

In September 2022, Eurowings, a low-cost carrier within the Lufthansa Group, replaced the traditional high heels with sneakers for all crew members on select Fridays, namely on the first Friday of the month. Virgin Atlantic took a step further and allowed cabin crew the option to use gender-neutral uniforms, a follow-up to a previous policy change that allowed flight attendants and other frontline staff to not wear makeup and enabled them to show visible tattoos if they wished to do so. 

“At Virgin Atlantic, we believe that everyone can take on the world, no matter who they are,” commented Juha Jarvinen, the airline’s Chief Commercial Officer at the time. The CCO added that it is important “that we enable our people to embrace their individuality and be their true selves at work.” 


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