Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Red Dress

Oh Boy.  I've dithered over the red dress issue since learning of it early yesterday. It is fraught with peril. But, gulp, here goes:

On the one hand, 
I find it incredible that the union that represents Northwest Airlines flight attendants believes the size cap imposed by Delta on its signature red dress uniform (size 18) is not large enough and is asking the airline to offer it in sizes up to 28.  It should be noted here that the airline offers "a range of outfits in other colors and styles up to size 28 that flight attendants can wear."
Although I am more than 50 years older than I was when I worked for NWA, I still haven't achieved size 18 (thank goodness) and I cannot possibly imagine a size 28 making it down the aisle on any airliner I can think of without immediately getting hung up on arm rests, elbows or any manner of protrusions, and consequently blocking the aisle.  Which calls into question the union's statement that "the job isn't about sexy, it's about safety."

On the other hand,
I fully subscribe to the hard-won rejection of the ancient beliefs that "looks" has anything to do with the ability of a woman to work a flight, and that she can do so competently and efficiently, even while married and over the age of 32.  (See ancient history in my book Fujiyama Trays & Oshibori Towels - Recalling a time when passenger flight was an adventure and the Boeing Stratocruiser ruled the skies.)
But over size 18?
What do you think?

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Blogger Terri said...

I agree that it comes down to safety. What makes dress size challenging is that it doesn't speak to a person's strength and fitness. I know plenty of bigger women who are more muscular than you'd imagine. But at some point, pure girth does inhibit maneuverability. I'd say sizes 18 or 20 are probably the upper limits (speaking from sizes I used to wear not so long ago). Ultimately, in an emergency, I'd like to know my flight attendant could handle the physical demands.

August 5, 2009 at 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know a captain who was very insulted by the attitude and demeanor of a lead flight attendant before the flight even began boarding. Feeling his hands tied by union protection, etc, he felt there was no point in reporting the behavior, or, more importantly, trying to improve it before take-off. He felt that this lead had made it clear that her job was going to be making the flight as unpleasant as possible for the entire cockpit crew. We don't like to admit it, but I think we all know this sort of thing occurs, for whatever reasons, and that it can certainly impact crew and passengers' ability to enjoy the trip. In the worst case, even safety can be compromised by this kind of animosity. Perhaps this was not the most gallant way of removing this Sr. f/a from his flight, but it was certainly effective.
When the f/a had finished her diatribe, the captain asked her if she was through. He then asked her to grab her bag and follow him. He led her further into the cabin, stopping at the first emergency exit door. I would imagine that the f/a assumed she would be asked to open the door, in order to prove that she was physically strong enough to do so. It is a captain's prerogative to request such tests when he feels a crewmember may be unable to perform their duties, especially those involving safety.
The lead f/a swiftly and deftly opened the emergency door, and turned smugly to the captain.
The captain's response: "Thank you. You did that well. Now, do we need to deploy the slide in order to determine your ability to fit through this door?"
Although I’m sure she was insulted by the captain's reference to her weight, she knew he was completely within his rights and responsibilities in doing so. She also knew there was no way she would fit through the door. She picked up her bag and exited the aircraft. She was replaced by presumably a smaller, but certainly more pleasant, f/a.
I don't know dress sizes...what size woman wears an 18 as opposed to a 28...but I do know that there are jobs in this world that do require a person be of a certain body size. A jockey must be very small compared to the average man. My mother wanted more than anything to be a 'stew', but even though she was lovely, outgoing and had a trim little figure, at five feet tall, she was unable to reach many of the areas in the airplane for which she would be responsible.

Flight attendants no longer need to be glamour girls. But they do need to be neat, well groomed, pleasant, and most importantly, physically able to do all their job requires. That means anything from reaching the high shelf in the galley, or the back of the overhead compartment, to moving quickly and efficiently through the cabin…and thru the emergency exits.

August 20, 2009 at 12:29 PM  

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