SWISS to scrap strict dress code for pilots and cabin crew

SWISS to scrap strict dress code for pilots and cabin crew

Five years after it was first demanded by trade unions, SWISS, the flag carrier airline of Switzerland, has relaxed its rigid dress code rules for cabin crew and pilots. The new rules will give workers more freedom to choose what to wear and allow for other accessories like tattoos and piercings.

New dress code rules for SWISS staff

In a statement, aviation trade union Kapers confirmed that SWISS had given the green light to relax their dress code rules for cabin crew and pilots flying to and from Swiss airports. From now on, the dress code will be “modernised” and made completely gender-neutral.

The international company has decided to scrap the rules whereby female staff were required to wear a scarf and lipstick and shave their legs - although anyone who wears a skirt must wear some form of tights. Male staff will now be allowed to wear lipstick, makeup and nail polish if they so wish.

Small, non-offensive tattoos (apart from on the face) will also be allowed, alongside non-medical-related wigs and body piercings. Certain hairstyles such as twists and cornrows will also be permitted, alongside lace-up shoes.

Aviation unions had demanded change since 2019

For Kapers the change is a long time coming, having first demanded the scrapping of the dress code back in 2019. In a union newsletter article called “Geisha of the Skies - Uniform and Sexism”, Kapers made the point that airline dress codes seek to make cabin crew into objects without regard for how effective they are at their jobs.

They argued that working conditions also suffer as a result of the dress code: “In the middle of summer, can we get enough air in a plane that has been cooled for five minutes, bathed in sweat in a uniform jacket and socks? Why is it mandatory that we use lipstick? Why do we have to wear makeup?... Does this Barbie doll image justify our extremely low salaries by assigning us to the 'pretty thing, just good enough to smile' caste?"

Speaking to Watson, Kapers spokesperson Steve Broghammer said that they had asked for the rules to be changed earlier, but that the airline had delayed the reform due to the pandemic. He concluded that while not all their demands were met, the change was “a big step in the right direction.”

SWISS continues to face staff shortage

When musing about why the change had come about now, Watson noted that the relaxing of the dress code could be due to ongoing staff shortages at the airline: “SWISS is urgently dependent on new flight personnel, in the cockpit as well as in the cabin. And the stricter the uniform rules, the smaller the pool of possible candidates. Because even if someone meets all the professional requirements, the person may not be considered depending on their tattoo or hairstyle preference,” they wrote.

Thumb image credit: M101Studio /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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