In September, American Airlines rolled out the new uniforms for over 70,000 workers including flight attendants, pilots and gate agents. The uniform makeover was the airline's first in 30 years.
Despite the chic look of the new apparel, just weeks after the rollout, employees began complaining of severe itching, rashes, headaches and hives after sporting the new clothing items, reports USA Today.
The airline launched an internal investigation and initially said that the reported incidents were unrelated and any adverse reactions were likely due to wool allergies.
“They have the option to have a 100 percent cotton uniform or polyester,” Fernand Fernandez, American’s vice president of global marketing, said in September. At the time, he said the company had only received 15 complaints about the new clothing. “They look exactly the same, just different materials.”
But now thousands of workers have come forward with new complaints. On Wednesday, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents over 25,000 flight attendants, released a statement to members saying that it has “received over 1,600 flight attendant reports of suspected uniform reactions that include headaches, rashes, hives, burning skin and eye irritation, itching, and respiratory problems — to name a few.”
“The growing number of reports of suspected reactions, triggered by both direct and indirect contact with the uniform, has prompted APFA to ask that all uniforms be recalled until further joint testing with the company can be completed,” the union said.
American Airlines spokesman Ron DeFeo told The Dallas Morning News that the carrier has already done three rounds of testing and is taking the matter “very seriously.”
“We obviously want to make sure every employee feels good in their uniform,” he said.
After the initial tests on the uniforms, DeFeo said the airline found the uniform materials to be “in line with normal standards.”
According to a memo American sent to employees, the carrier plans to conduct another round of testing in conjunction with the union. Inspectors will also visit the warehouse where the uniforms are manufactured next week.
But the APFA says it won’t be satisfied until all of the uniforms are recalled.
“To that end, APFA will continue to explore all legal options and consult with additional experts in the field to better understand the results of our ongoing independent testing as well as joint testing moving forward.”