While the airline industry has evolved past the harsh beauty standards once placed on female flight attendants, the profession still requires employees to dress the part. Though there is no doubt that aircraft safety is the primary (and extremely demanding) job responsibility of a flight attendant, there is also a deeply rooted, historical style element amongst cabin crews, especially when it comes to their uniforms.
For Emirates Airlines, which boasts some of the most sophisticated and luxurious planes in the world, that traditional style element is still highly valued.
We sat down with flight attendants Maria Pedersen and Laura Kellam, two members of the elite, diverse crew (which is made up of people from 130 different countries!) to learn more about the uniform guidelines involved when working 36,000 feet above the ground.
HuffPost Style: Your crew always looks so well put together. How much of your training program is about image? What are some of the rules?
Maria Pedersen: Our service training program is two weeks, but we do have one full day of training on grooming that focuses on image and uniform. It’s pretty important to the airline. The red lipstick is pretty signature, in whichever shade suits your skin tone (it also must match the hat). They had a bunch of different Clarins shades for us to try on when we first got our uniforms.
Laura Kellam: There is a list of things we have to wear (like foundation), but we actually get a little manual with all the rules in it. Nails have to be clear, french or the same red as the lipstick and hat. If your hair touches your collar you have to put it up, but there is some flexibility based on texture. We can do a French roll or twist, and we just got braids approved… so bohemian [laughs].
HPS: And what about uniform? Any guidelines there?
LK: Yes, there are a bunch. For example, we’re not allowed to wear pieces of the uniform if we’re off duty… that would be pretty taboo. You must wear the hat during specific parts of the trip: anytime you’re in public, when you’re going through the airport and during boarding and landing. They also tell us exactly how to fold the scarf so it is tucked in a certain way.
MP: There are even rules for the hat: it has to be worn two finger widths above your eyebrows. Everything is very specific.
HPS: Wow! That’s a lot to keep track of. Do you think having these guidelines sets you apart from other airlines?
MP: Absolutely. I’m pretty proud of the way we look. People are really impressed by it. I think it makes us stand out, look professional and well put together.
LK: It’s a very unique uniform. People look at it and automatically know where we’re from, which makes me proud.
HPS: So, aside from the rigorous beauty routine, what are some of the more challenging aspects of the job?
LK: The schedule can definitely be a bit challenging sometimes. Sleeping in the afternoon or waking up for a flight at 3:00 AM when it’s the middle of the night in Australia, for example, can be tough.
MP: We’re not supposed to use sleeping pills or anything to help us sleep, so you kind of just have to figure out what works for you when it comes to getting a good night’s rest. You come up with strategies like drinking herbal tea: I have big packets of chamomile in my cabin bag to knock myself out.
HPS: What else do you do to stay refreshed on say, a 13-hour flight?
MP: Hydrating is KEY. I buy a liter of water and force myself to drink it. I use wet towels a lot and a spray that hydrates. Before a flight I put pure argan oil all over my face which is nice because it’s not super greasy but also doesn’t dry out my skin. I do that before I put on foundation.
HPS: What do you think is the coolest feature on board?
MP: Definitely the shower spas [which are available in first class on the A380 airbus]. They are spacious and stocked with Bvlgari products. Passengers are asked as soon as they get on board when they would like to take a shower. They space it out so that everyone has a good amount of time in there. They also get pajamas to change into after they are done. It’s a really luxurious experience.
HPS: OK, be honest. How long does it take you to get ready before a flight?
LK: I usually give myself about an hour and fifteen minutes. I could do it in less time, but I don’t like to be rushed. I like to feel fresh and totally ready for work.
To learn more about Emirates Airlines, click here.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
In her interview with HuffPost, Pederson explains the length of the service training as two weeks: however, the length of the training program in total, which focuses mainly on learning safety procedures and protocol, is 7.5 weeks.