Around the world many women are required to wear high heels as part of their work uniform. Photo / 123rf
In recent months more than a few airline passengers have expressed outrage at having to wear facemasks during a flight.
One can only imagine how they would respond if they were forced to wear high heels.
Yet, for countless air stewardesses like Alexandrina Denysenko, this is the painful reality.
As a senior flight attendant at SkyUp Airlines, Denysenko has been in the industry for seven years yet still suffers from swollen legs from spending hours on her feet and in heels.
She wasn’t the only female staff member with issues. Colleague Daria Solomennaya told the BBC that after a 12 hour round trip from Kyiv to Zanzibar in heels, one was “hardly able to walk”.
These women aren’t the first to endure discomfort and pain as a result of unnecessary airline uniforms regulations.
What is noteworthy is that their opinions were heard and change happened.
As, after collecting feedback from staff, the privately-owned Ukrainian carrier decided to ditch the high heels, pencil skirts and buttoned blouses.
From October 22, the female crew will be decked out in tailored orange suits paired with white teeshirts, white Nike Air Max 720 sneakers and patterned scarves.
In other words, a bold, modern outfit that wouldn’t look out of place in New York fashion week.
Like any change in an industry, the new uniforms haven’t been celebrated by everyone. Kim Wijnands, a Corendon Dutch Airlines flight attendant told Euronews she didn’t think the crew would look good and heels looked more feminine.
“They emanate class and a sort of status,” she said.
Similarly, Ines de la Fuentes, who worked as a flight attendant in the Middle East for two years said she had loved wearing her ‘iconic red heels’.
“I think the typical uniform is definitely a trademark and part of the glamour and mystery that surrounds the aviation industry and its employees.”
However, to turn this into a question of whether someone is ‘for’ or ‘against’ high heels, skirts and other feminine items of clothing is to miss the point.
Denysenko said she didn’t argue with the fact that heels looked beautiful, and I myself own more than a few pairs.
It’s one thing to choose the pretty and painful high heels for a day in the office or a dinner out. It’s quite another to mandate them onto a woman’s feet for hours at a time with absolutely no functional advantages.
In fact, Denysenko said the conventional outfits could make emergencies even more dangerous.
“God forbid, but if a crew has to do a landing in water and an evacuation, heels can damage the ladder and it won’t be very comfortable to swim in a skirt,” she said.
The functionality was one reason SkyUp Airline’s head of marketing Marianna Grygorash said they changed to pants and sneakers.
“Despite the fact that the image of a female flight attendant is very romanticised, their job demands a lot of physical training,” she said.
A kind way of saying that, contrary to popular opinion, flight attendants’ primary job isn’t to give passengers something nice to look at.
Even if presentability is a priority (as it is for many other customer-facing industries), one has to wonder what it will take to convince airlines that fashion and function are no longer mutually exclusive and bring their uniforms into the 21st century.
Because if a devastatingly fierce orange power suit can’t do it, who knows what will.
This article first appeared on Airline News, global aviation community’s primary source of news, data, insight, knowledge and expertise.