As the numbers of employees reporting mysterious illnesses keeps growing, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines has decided to replace the uniforms worn by its 3,200 flight attendants nationwide.
“Honestly, they’ve been frustrated with how long it’s taken to get to this point, but we are very happy to see that we are transitioning to a new uniform,” said Jeffrey Peterson, president of Alaska Airlines flight attendants union.
The union is convinced that rashes, headaches and hair loss and respiratory problems are linking to the uniforms flight attendants have been wearing since January of 2011.
“We did not have these issues before we transitioned to this new flight attendant uniform,” said Peterson.
He says some flights attendant’s illnesses were serious enough that they had to miss work for a period of time.
Union documentation shows that nearly 700 flight attendants – one fourth of the entire workforce – reported some form of illness since donning the new uniform. They were manufactured by Twin Hill.
Alaska said it made the decision to purchase new uniforms from Lands' End at a cost of up to $5 million.
“Everybody wanted to rush to a new uniform quickly, but without understanding of the problem or understanding manufacturing, we weren’t going to be in a good place,” said Alaska Air’s VP on Inflight Services Andy Schneider.
She says the airline ordered extensive tests on the uniform.
“We haven’t found anything,” said Schneider. “We looked very hard at the problem but nothing has come forward as the reason why so many people have expressed concern.”
The union says some members symptoms have not cleared up, even though they were permitted to wear an alternative uniform if they provided a doctor’s note.
“Some of our members are reporting some very serious health effects and that’s questionable how long it will take for those to be resolved,” said Peterson.
Alaska hopes to have flight attendants in their new uniforms by the end of the year.
“I want people to know that we’ve taken this very seriously,” said Schneider.
She says the airline is not aware of any illnesses reported by passengers.