The fact that Philippine Airlines announced plans to introduce a new uniform was not surprising. Airlines seem to redo their uniforms as often as some people sneeze. However, the move by Philippine Airlines was surprising in one aspect: their new uniforms actually qualify as personal protection equipment (PPE).
You are little confused, so let us talk context. Philippine Airlines did not completely dispense with existing uniforms in favor of a brand-new design. Rather, what they came up with is a new uniform that can be worn over existing clothing during repatriation flights. The uniforms debuted in April on flights from Manila to Auckland, New Zealand.
A Medical Smock
Designers were brought in by Philippine Airlines and tasked with designing some sort of protective gear that flight attendants could wear on repatriation flights. They came up with something that vaguely resembles a medical smock that goes on over the front and ties off in the back.
The one-piece smock features elastic wristbands to keep the sleeves in place. Though tied off from the rear, the straps are long enough to bring back around the front where they can be knotted. The gown even includes a three-color banner on the right shoulder reminiscent of the Philippine Airlines logo.
To protect flight attendant faces, designers came up with what looks like nothing more than a transparent medical face shield. It fixes over the top of the head with an elastic band, providing full face coverage without interrupting field of vision. The entire thing is topped off with a medical face mask and gloves.
An Operating Room in the Sky
In the absence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the new uniform would look more like what a doctor would wear in the OR. A full flight staffed by a small army of flight attendants in full uniform would look a lot like an operating room in the sky. In their defense, the airline is simply trying to keep both flight attendants and passengers safe.
It is not clear how long Philippine Airlines attendants will be wearing the new uniforms. But we do know that they are not limited just to repatriation flights between Manila and Auckland. We know that because the uniforms also showed up on flights heading to other destinations.
On the other hand, repatriation flights are the only flights being run by Philippine Airlines right now. All other flights have been canceled. Will the attendants be wearing the uniforms when regular commercial flights resume? No one knows.
Don’t Forget the Branding
Assuming the uniforms are only temporary, it would seem logical that designers would forgo branding for this round. But that sort of thinking doesn’t work in the airline industry. Hence the move by designers to put the rainbow on the left shoulder.
According to Alsco, a popular Uniform Provider in Salt Lake City, branding is an important part of presenting a positive image to customers. Perhaps that’s what Philippine Airlines was attempting to do here. They were taking a bad situation and trying to make the most of it by creating as positive an image as possible.
Whether or not that is the case, the company did not have time to invest in embroidery or patchwork. Nor did they have time to figure out a way to incorporate the actual logo. It was simpler and easier just to silkscreen the three colors as a banner and leave it at that.
Philippine Airlines wins the award for most creative flight attendant uniform of 2020. Assuming the uniforms are retired after the pandemic is over, they will undoubtedly occupy a place in airline history for years to come.