British Airways has unveiled its new range of uniforms, created by Savile Row fashion designer and tailor, Ozwald Boateng OBE, which will be worn by more than 30,000 of the airline’s staff from Spring 2023.
The collection features a tailored three-piece suit for men, available in regular or slim-fit styles, and a range of options for female staff, including trousers, a dress, a skirt, trousers or even a jumpsuit with a modern cut. A tunic and hijab option has also been created, with all the tailored garments featuring a jacquard fabric with a variation of the airline’s speedmarque.
Boateng has been developing the collection since 2018, and not in creative isolation. He spent time shadowing a number of staff in roles based in aircraft and airports in order to understand how the uniform needed to perform for each job, from freedom of movement to durability. More than 1,500 colleagues across the airline took part in 50 workshops to help ensure the suitability of the various garments, from design workshops to prototype feedback and trials.
A lucky few also had the opportunity to be ahead of the trend and try out the new uniform in secret trials over the past six months. Cabin and flight crew uniforms have been worn on cargo flights across Europe, while engineers have been trying out the uniforms while maintaining aircraft out of sight in the UK’s Manchester and Cotswold Airports. Many of the outdoor garments have also been tested in lab conditions such as deluge showers and freezers at -18 degrees Celsius to ensure they are water resistant, durable and fit for extreme weather conditions.
During the trials colleagues gave feedback on the practicality of the garments, with any concerns resulting in Boateng making a few nips and tucks to the tailoring ahead of the rollout of the uniforms. For example, engineers requested easy-access tool pockets for convenience when working on aircraft, while ground handlers asked for touch-screen technology fabric in their gloves so they can keep them on when using their devices in cold climates.
Emma Carey is one of the British Airways cabin crew who was first to try out the uniform during the secret trials. “It’s been a real honour and responsibility to help test the new uniform and put it through its paces at 35,000ft to make sure it’s fit for purpose, with thousands of my colleagues counting on me. It was great to see that adjustments were made after our feedback. The pockets on the apron, for example, were widened after the trial so we had more room for everything we need during meal services on board.”
As well as style and practicality, sustainability and quality have been key concerns throughout the uniform design process. More than 90% of the garments are produced using sustainable fabric made from blends of recycled polyester. As part of British Airways’ BA Better World commitment to work with sustainable suppliers, the airline is only working with manufacturers that are members of the ‘Better Cotton’ initiative, whose mission is to help cotton communities survive and thrive, while protecting and restoring the environment.
The airline’s engineers and ground operations agents will be first to wear the new uniform from Spring 2023. All British Airways’ cabin crew, pilots and check-in agents will then switch over to the new uniform in Summer 2023. As they pick up their new items of uniform, they’ll hand in their previous Julien MacDonald-designed garments, which will be donated to charity or recycled to create toys, tablet holders and more, with a number of items due to be gifted to the airline’s museum.