American Airlines CEO Doug Parker admitted last week that the airline’s ongoing crew uniform crisis is “as difficult an issue as we’ve ever had to deal with,” according to the Chicago Business Journal.
The debacle began last September, when American Airlines rolled out new uniforms-- the first major reissue in nearly 30 years-- for more than 70,000 airline employees including pilots, flight attendants and gate agents. Since then, nearly 3,000 flight attendants have reported serious allergic reactions to the uniforms. Symptoms have varied from hives and headaches to swollen faces and, at worst, severe respiratory issues.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents more than 25,000 American flight attendants, demanded a total uniform recall in December. Parker attended a meeting last week to discuss the issue during a monthly town hall meeting where various airline worker groups can directly interact airline executives and management.
In a video obtained by the Chicago Business Journal, Parker reportedly said that the largest number of reported reactions have come from the flight attendants though pilots, customer service agents, and other works have also reported problems.
But Parker said that a total recall of the new uniforms, which are supplied by Twin Hill (a unit of Men's Wearhouse), is currently off the table as it could take years to rollout a whole new line of uniforms for the tens of thousands employees affected.
"That can't be the answer. We'll keep working through it,” he said.
Temporary solutions were offered to help deal with the crisis, such as offering flight attendants and other workers cotton and synthetic uniform options-- but even then some of the flight attendants reported issues with the alternative option.
American Airlines is working with the APFA on other solutions but the APFA board of directions met last week, ending the three-day meeting with no new announcements in regards to the crisis.
A representative for American Airlines was not immediately available for comment.