Almost 3,000 female cabin crew in Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon will ditch skirts for trousers, unions say
Uniform revamp will take three years, but airlines urged to come up with an interim design
About a third of female flight attendants across Cathay Pacific Airways and its subsidiary Cathay Dragon would ditch skirts for trousers, union leaders estimated on Friday, following the successful conclusion of talks to end a skirt-only rule.
The news came a day after Cathay Dragon reached an “understanding” with employees which would pave the way for all uniformed staff at both airlines to choose between wearing trousers and skirts.
The deal marked a historic and progressive move for the 71-year-old Cathay Pacific, Asia’s largest international airline.
Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express, the two other local carriers, have remained silent on the matter. Both carriers, controlled by struggling mainland conglomerate HNA Group, stipulate that female staff can only wear knee-high skirts.
On Friday, union leaders said some 2,500 female Cathay Pacific cabin crew were in favour of wearing trousers. Cathay Pacific has about 7,000 female attendants out of a total cohort of 10,000.
Those in favour at Cathay Dragon numbered about 470, a quarter of its 1,880 female flight attendants.
The numbers do not include the thousands of staff members in both companies working at check-in desks or in offices at Hong Kong International Airport, as well as those based overseas.
Two weeks ago, when asked, Hong Kong Express skirted around the question of introducing trousers. A spokeswoman said at the time it “always cares for staff and would do our utmost to cater to their needs”.
Hong Kong Airlines earlier said skirts “reflect” the company’s “young and energetic brand”, but suggested it was open to changing course when it “evaluates trends and workplace requirements to stay current”.
The design of the new trousers for Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon would be a major factor in determining how well received it would be among staff, union leaders said. Flight attendants could opt for trousers during the winter months, particularly for Cathay Dragon, which flies to colder destinations such as northern China, Japan and South Korea.
The revamp of staff uniforms could take place within three years, but union members urged the airlines to consider an interim trouser design.
Time to change air hostesses’ old-fashioned image, says Cathay Pacific union, backing end to ‘skirt-only’ rule in Hong Kong
Vera Wu Yee-mei, chairwoman of the Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union, reflected on the momentous decision: “To be honest we didn’t expect the company to say yes, but we also didn’t expect it would take three years to implement.
“We feel glad that we finally have the option of wearing trousers instead of skirts. This is a move towards equal treatment.”
Rebecca Sy On-na, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants Association, said customers could expect even higher service standards as flight attendants would feel more comfortable and relaxed in their work environment, under the new policy.
The Women’s Foundation, a Hong Kong non-profit group focused on improving the lives of the city’s women and girls, urged other companies to follow in the footsteps of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon.
“We welcome the move – it’s a positive step forward for women in the workplace,” CEO Fiona Nott said. “Dress codes can perpetuate gender stereotypes that hold women back. I hope other companies follow this lead and that more women and men are encouraged to speak up for change.”