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When it comes to the appearance of flight attendants, we know that many demands are made. They are the first you see when you board the plane, so that makes sense. Yet for some airlines, it seems like a reason to raise the standards. For example, it was announced in May that flight attendants at TUI Fly could have a maximum size of 40, and in 2017 Aeroflot indicated that it would only hire ‘handsome’ flight attendants.
This week I discovered that Qatar Airways, once again named the best airline in the world this year, also thought it was time to make even higher demands on staff appearance. But what do you do when the requirements are already so strict? That’s right, people come up with bizarre dress codes…
How it started
Swissport, a company that provides ground staff for various airlines at Schiphol (Netherlands), received a memo from Qatar Airways on 6 July. The memo stated that the company had noticed that the current rules regarding the dress code are not being observed. It was also announced that these rules would change on 1 August.
The memo contained a list with, according to Qatar Airways, the most important changes with regard to the dress code. The most striking requirement was that from 1 August onwards, the female staff should not have hair on their face or arms. In addition, their gray hair must be colored, which is not the case for men.
This memo soon ended up in the hands of Stijn Jansen, who works for the FNV trade union. He posted the document on Twitter and asked Schiphol for a response.
Wat vinden jullie van de nieuwe voorschriften die @qatarairwaysstelt aan de grondstewardessen op #Schipholdie ongeveer een tientje per uur verdienen.
Vrouwen met grijs haar worden oa verplicht om hun haren te verven. Schiphol is toch een modern vliegveld? pic.twitter.com/DrSLmDEtpb
— Stijn Jansen (@StijnJansen90) 10 juli 2019
Schiphol explained that these requirements do not apply to their staff and referred to Qatar for a response.
At first I did not understand why Jansen asked Schiphol the question. That is why I have delved a little further.
Swissport is one of the four companies that provide ground staff at Schiphol for airlines that do not have this. Together with D-Nata, Menzies Aviation and AviaPartner, they handle approximately 30% of flights at Schiphol. The rest is done by KLM. In fact, Schiphol has outsourced part of their work. This means that Swissport employees can work for TUI Fly one moment and for Qatar the next.
Four companies competing with each other in this field, weakens the position of Swissport. Especially when it comes to treatment of the staff. If Swissport goes against Qatar’s policy, they will lose them as customers. As a result, the stewardesses earn a lousy ten euros per hour and are not reimbursed for expenses for their appearances. Such as make-up, nails and hair products. But when you are forced to make more and more concessions, such as removing hair on the face and arms, you will have less and less money left as an employee.
And keep in mind that the ground staff of Aviapartner, Menzies Aviation and Swissport organized a strike last year to raise awareness of, among other things, the high workload and low wages …
Qatar in 2018
But back to the dress code. The rules concerning appearance were already quite strict in 2018. Below I have listed the rules. It is such a long list, I have divided it into three categories: ladies, gentlemen and rules that apply to both.
- Foundation: must match your skin color in terms of shade.
- Mascara: you can only wear black.
- Nail polish: all nails must be the same length and always painted. The color of your nail polish must be the same as that of your lips. In terms of color, you can choose from clear varnish, French manicure (these can be combined with all colored lipsticks), light pink, dark pink, burgundy and dark red. Henna on the hands or nail art is not permitted.
- Blush: only the colors peach, pink or dark pink are allowed.
- Lipstick: only the colors burgundy, light pink, dark pink and red may be worn.
- Lipliners: are only allowed if the color matches that of the lipstick.
If you want to wear eye shadow, this must meet the following criteria:
- Not too much and applied with care
- Only the following colors are allowed: plum, burgundy, brown, beige and pastel shades in pink, lilac, blue and gray. (I don’t think gray is pastel, but apparently at Qatar Airways they think so).
- Only managers may wear pastel green as eye shadow.
- Eyeliners can only be black, brown or gray. The line must not be applied too thickly. Eyelash extensions or tattooed eyebrows are not allowed.
- Ladies with long hair must tighten this up so that it is out of sight and there should be no loose, small hairs visible in the neck. In terms of hairstyle you can choose a bun or a French twist.
- If you have short hair, it must be cut to one length and out of sight. You must also always style it. In terms of length, it should not be shorter than the top of your collar and no longer than the bottom of your collar. Otherwise you have “medium hair” according to the rules and this must be worn in a ponytail, which may not be longer than 6 inches long. A little longer hair is categorized as “medium hair” and this must be worn in a ponytail… Is your hair longer than that? Then you have officially long hair and you have to meet the rules of the first point above.
- Hair accessories must always have the same color as your hair. That may be hair nets, sliders, rubber bands, diadem or a donut to wear your hair up. You can wear a maximum of three items in your hair.
- Extensions may only be worn by people who have frizzy hair, provided this is approved by management.
- Hairstyles that are not allowed include unmanageable, curly hair, braids and short hair that is not styled.
- Your hair may not contain much oil.
- When you color your hair, no outgrown roots may be visible.
- Gray hair must be dyed in a natural hair color.
- Even if you choose to color without gray hair, you can only choose a natural shade. Colors like black, brown, auburn or blonde.
- Highlights or lowlights are not allowed.
Jewelry and accessories
- Ladies who have holes must always wear earrings.
- You may only wear earrings in the bottom hole of your ears.
- You can choose simple pearls or yellow gold earrings with a diameter of up to 1 centimeter.
- No form of makeup is allowed.
- Men must shave their faces, but may wear a short and well-groomed mustache.
- Both nails and hands must be clean and cared for.
- The hair must be combed out of sight and must not extend beyond the top of the collar in terms of length. They must use as few styling products as possible.
- When they turn gray, the gentlemen do not have to dye their hair. If they do choose to do this, then this must be done in a natural color.
Ladies and gentlemen
- Neither ladies nor gentlemen are allowed to wear braces in the mouth.
- You must always wear a watch that meets the following requirements: a modern, simple model without diamonds or colored stones. In terms of strap you can choose between black, brown, silver, yellow gold or a combination between gold and silver. The dial may be white, black, silver, brown or yellow gold. Watches with rose gold details are not allowed.
- Rings may not be wider than 1/2 centimeter and you may wear a only one ring on each hand. These must be silver or yellow gold. It should not be worn on your thumb or forefinger. If you have a wedding ring, it can be worn as a third ring. It must be made of silver or yellow gold and may have only of one small stone.
- Sunglasses must have a simple modern shape. The frame must be black, brown, silver or gold. You cannot wear it indoors, not even on a neck or head strap. It must not have any logos.
- Except for the rule not to wear them indoors, the same rules apply to glasses that must be worn because of the vision. If you choose contact lenses, they must not be colored and they must be made of plastic.
Prior to each flight there is a special “grooming officer” who checks whether you meet all the above requirements. If this is not the case and the “problem” cannot be solved immediately, you will be sent home and you will receive a letter with an official warning. In addition to non-compliance with these rules, there are a number of reasons why you can be sent home anyway:
- Allergy rash on your face, forearm or hands.
- Burns or acne
- Damage to your face such as bruising
A special story …
I can only conclude that this story is wrong in so many ways.
First of all, it is of course bizarre to see how far Qatar Airways goes with their dress code. It is normal for stewardesses to wear long hair and to wear make-up. But removing the hair on your face and your arms goes very far. Every healthy person has hair on the face and arms. They are there to protect your skin. When you remove them, you will spend the rest of your life keeping up with it. Because the hairs that come back are often much thicker and darker. While the gentlemen do not need this and may even wear a mustache …
Speaking of hair, the ladies are forced to dye gray hair. It shows very well how people perceive women: they must look young. While that is not the case with gentlemen.
In this article I am only talking about the difference between men and women, but also the distinction between black and white people is painfully visible through this dress code. The requirements are clearly imposed by people with a western beauty ideal. Because if you have frizzy hair, you must change your hair. Braids are forbidden, just like wearing the hair in its natural state. Because frizzy hair is naturally unmanageable and curled. So you can only choose between extensions and straighten your hair. A pity, because while a law has just been implemented in California against this form of discrimination, Qatar Airways is making matters worse with these rules.
Prefer a Barbie doll?
It is clear that Qatar Airways does not really appreciate diversity in the workplace. In my eyes it is a matter of time before the staff revolts. And maybe in the meantime the management can take a look at the option to deploy robots as flight attendants. Then everyone looks the same and you don’t have to set up discriminatory and disrespectful dress codes.