Scandinavia has long been considered a part of Europe known for its progressive sense of social justice. But an airline in Norway is undermining this with a dress code policy that requires the mandatory wearing of high heels by its female flight attendants.
Norwegian Air – the country’s biggest airline – confirmed the policy in a statement: “Female cabin crew are expected to wear heels when not on board as part of their uniform unless there are medical reasons preventing them for doing so.”
A doctor’s letter to be carried by female air crew at all times is currently the only way they can wear flat shoes while on the ground. Given how much walking is done at airports, and how uncomfortable heels can tend to be, many argue it’s a draconian policy.
A spokesperson for Norwegian Air said its policy was “the same as most other international airlines”.
“Like all global airlines, Norwegian has a comprehensive set of uniform guidelines to ensure that our flying crew represent our brand in a smart and consistent manner,” the spokesperson said.
“The guidelines were drafted with input from our pilot and cabin crew colleagues and have been well received, sharing many gender commonalities in addition to some specific male and female requirements.”
The guidelines, part of a 22-page dress code document obtained by Norwegian newspaper VG, also stated that female cabin crew must wear “eye make-up and light foundation or a tinted moisturiser or powder at work”. Conversely, men are not allowed to wear make-up unless it’s to cover bruises and blemishes.
In March, Virgin Atlantic shook up the status quo when it became the first top-tier airline to inform female flight attendants that they no longer had to wear make-up in the air. They also have the option of wearing trousers rather than a skirt as part of their standard uniform.
Irish carrier Aer Lingus recently followed suit announcing it will no longer require female cabin crew to wear make-up or skirts.
Many airlines, it seems, have some quirky standards for deportment while cabin crew are in the air. In 2015, Air India got itself into hot water when it warned 600 of its employees to lose weight within six months or risk being removed from flights. The airline announced plans to remove nearly 130 workers from cabin crew duty because their BMI (body mass index) was above the acceptable limit.
For United Airlines, men’s facial hair appears to be a particular issue with the US carrier saying “trendy facial hair styles are not permitted” and “moustaches may not extend more than quarter of an inch below the sides of the mouth”.
While Jet Airways is said to require “a clear complexion (scars, pimples and blemishes not acceptable)” for its cabin crew, it was reported in The Telegraph.