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Top Asian Airlines Flight Attendant Uniforms - Glamourous or Functional?

What Is Skytrax?

Skytrax is UK-based consultancy that does research for commercial airlines and conducts an annual review and ranking for the best airport, airline, airline lounge, cabin crew, etc.

Its annual World Airline Awards is one of the most esteemed accolades for the aviation industry. It is conducted over a ten-month period covering more than 200 airlines from all over the world.

Flight Attendant Uniforms

Have you noticed whenever airline crews walk through the airport terminal building, almost everyone stops and stares at them? You start to wonder why they never fail to catch our attention. Could it be due to their color-coordinated uniforms; their hats, scarves, and shoes; or their perfect hair and make-up?

Asian airlines are no different. They stand out from other airlines because their flight attendant uniforms retain some elements of traditional Asian dress, which aim to represent ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity. Though there are other Asian airlines that have opted for a modern design. The uniforms must also comply with occupational health and safety requirements, as well keeping in mind the varied climates in which they fly to.

Let's take a look at some of the more successful Asian airline's flight attendant uniforms, see if it measures up to the above requirements, and if it is functional and timeless or just glamorous.

Note: Listed in this article are Asian airlines that had either won Best Airline in the World award or was rated in Skytrax's Top 10 Best Airlines in the World list. I have excluded other Asian airlines that are not in that listing.

Air Asia flight attendants in their striking red colored uniforms
Air Asia flight attendants in their striking red colored uniforms | Source

Air Asia Flight Attendant's Uniform

Air Asia, Malaysia's low-cost airline, had won Skytrax World Airline Award for "Best Low-Cost Airline in the World" award for five consecutive years. They always strive to be different and have succeeded in many ways.

Being different includes having a modern design for the flight attendant's uniform in bright red, which is also their corporate color.

There are, however, detractors who think that this design is 'too sexy' and does not reflect the country's national identity. Air Asia opted to go beyond the traditional design because they felt that this design option had universal features. They thought the newer design would represent them better as they expand beyond the shores of their country.

Whether it is a traditional or modern design, what is important is the functionality and practicality when it comes to an emergency. Will it hinder the flight attendants in doing their job at that critical hour?

Sir Richard Branson Dresses as Air Asia Flight Attendant After Losing Bet

Air Asia’s Cabin Crew with HPE Clothing

Besides being functional, comfort is also important. That is why Air Asia worked with HPE (High-Performance Engineering) Clothing Company to create a special edition of high-performance uniforms for their cabin crew. HPE clothing is known for its cutting-edge fabric technology that helps the flight attendant overcome the physical demand and stress while flying. The uniform is designed to control body temperature, regulate blood flow, and diminish muscular fatigue. This allows the cabin crew to look elegant and stylish, while increasing the functionality of the suit.

Air Asia also opted for the "dress down" look for the weekend. Therefore, if you travel on Saturday and Sunday, you will see Air Asia cabin crews in their casual wear, like jeans or short-sleeve blouse.

I think Air Asia had opted for a good design and a good choice of clothing material; both of which are practical and glamorous. What do you think?

Singapore Airline Flight Attendants in their figure hugging Sarong Kebaya
Singapore Airline Flight Attendants in their figure hugging Sarong Kebaya | Source

Singapore Airline Flight Attendant's Uniform

Singapore Airline or SIA is another Asian airline that had won several awards and has had marketing success with their iconic "Singapore Girl" tagline.

Clad in the figure-hugging sarong kebaya uniform. The Singapore Girl advertising campaign has often been labeled as sexist. Sexist or otherwise, it worked and became an industry icon.

SIA's flight attendant uniforms were designed by the celebrated Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain. It was based on the traditional sarong kebaya, a traditional dress worn in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Burma, Southern Thailand, and the Southern Philippines.

Sarong kebaya is, without doubt, one of our classic and sexy figure-hugging, traditional dresses. Pierre Balmain made it even sexier by choosing a low-cut, round neckline.

The uniform is made of batik motif material, and there have been little changes to the uniform design since its introduction in 1968.

The outfit is elegant and classic, yet functional and has remained timeless.

SIA has been in the Skytrax Top 10 world's best airline for several years. For 2013 world's best cabin staff award, it came in fifth. However, they won the "Nicest Flight Attendant Uniform (2013)".

Malaysian Airline Flight Attendants in their Sarong Kebaya uniforms
Malaysian Airline Flight Attendants in their Sarong Kebaya uniforms | Source

Malaysia Airline Flight Attendant's Uniform

Malaysia Airline or MAS, another winner and nominee for the Skytrax "World's Best Airline Award," also opted for the traditional sarong kebaya as their flight attendant's uniform. There is little alteration to this traditional design, unlike Singapore Airline's uniform, except for the shortened sleeve, which is now almost three-quarter length.

The first range of MAS sarong kebaya design was by Malaysian designer Andy Chiew. Then in 1986, MAS introduced a new range designed by Malaysia MARA Institute of Technology School of Fashion and Design.

The current design was introduced in 1991 with a slight variation to MARA's original design.

I personally think it is high time for MAS to re-launch a new set of uniforms and to re-brand its image, but I doubt they will.

The current design, despite being more than a decade old, probably works so well for them that they truly believed in the adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

They are probably right, as they came in second for Skytrax's "Nicest Flight Attendant Uniform" in 2013. In the "World's Best Cabin Staff (2013)" category, Malaysia Airline came third.

Cathay Pacific Airways new outfit for its male and female flight attendants
Cathay Pacific Airways new outfit for its male and female flight attendants | Source

Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendant's Uniform

British-owned, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways is probably one of the few Asian airlines that often launches new uniforms for its entire front-line staff, from the cabin crew right through to the cargo teams. In the last 60 years of its operation, they have done this nine times.

The current design, which is the tenth for Cathay Pacific, is by local designer Eddie Lau. In coming out with the new design, the team interviewed about a hundred of its frequent flyer members and 1,000 uniformed staff members.

The new uniform is a fresh interpretation of elegance and uniqueness. However, some had labelled the extreme-cut collars to be more suited for a Star Trek uniform!

This new uniform is indeed practical and functional for the cabin crew. In terms of aesthetic, the public did not seem to embrace it that well. This is reflected in Skytrax's 2013 "Nicest Flight Attendant Uniform" results, in which Cathay Pacific took ninth place. Not too bad, I suppose, as this is ninth place in the world, with hundreds of airlines vying for this accolade!

However, Cathay did a lot better in the "Best Cabin Staff" category, as they won the award for "World's Best Cabin Staff" in 2013.

Asiana Airline male and female flight attendants
Asiana Airline male and female flight attendants | Source

Asiana Airlines Flight Attendant's Uniform

Asiana Airlines flight attendant uniforms look more suited for a military plane rather than civilian plane and has been in the news for the wrong reasons.

The "skirts-only" dress code has been an issue for a long time, and only recently, the flight attendants were given the okay to either wear skirts or pants. This happened only after several appeals to the management, and after the union filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission.

Despite the change in dress code, many had yet to opt for the pants option, fearing a negative evaluation on their internal performance record!

Wow, this sounds bad and is almost akin to management by fear and intimidation.

Skirts or pants, I think both will work well in the current uniform design, which is more functional and has no hints of glamor at all.

As would be expected, Asiana Airline's uniform was not in the top 10 "Nicest Uniforms (2013)"!

However, in the category for "Best Cabin Staff in the World," Asiana was 2013's runner-up. I gotta say this is pretty impressive!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Thai Airline Flight Attendants in their 'outside the plane' uniformsThai Airline flight attendants in their Thai traditional uniform worn when in the plane
Thai Airline Flight Attendants in their 'outside the plane' uniforms
Thai Airline Flight Attendants in their 'outside the plane' uniforms | Source
Thai Airline flight attendants in their Thai traditional uniform worn when in the plane
Thai Airline flight attendants in their Thai traditional uniform worn when in the plane | Source

Thai Airways International Flight Attendant's Uniform

As part of the company policy, Thai Airways International's flight attendants are required to wear their corporate purple outfit (above) for use outside the plane and are required to change into the traditional Thai dress (click on the thumbnail to see photo) prior to passengers boarding the plane. However, if the flight attendant is not a Thai national, then she will not be allowed to wear the traditional Thai uniform.

This in-flight uniform change procedure may sound strange to you, but that is their corporate policy. You can probably say that Thai Airways International is trying to embrace both the traditional and modern design for their flight attendant's uniforms.

However, for this evaluation, the uniform worn during flight will be assessed, as it is during the flight that one can determine if the outfit is functional and practical.

I have not flown on Thai Airways International for several years, but based on feedback from my colleagues, their views on the uniforms were:

  • It is graceful and elegant.
  • It is timeless.
  • It does not matter if it is practical during an emergency or not, as the flight attendants look stunning!

By the way, these are feedbacks from my male colleagues.

When it comes to service quality, Thai Airways came in tenth for "World's Best Cabin Staff (2013)" and fourth for "Nicest Flight Attendant Uniform."

Garuda Indonesia Flight Attendants in their Sarong Kebaya Uniform
Garuda Indonesia Flight Attendants in their Sarong Kebaya Uniform | Source

Garuda Indonesia Flight Attendant's Uniform

Garuda Indonesia decided to go back to the sarong kebaya design for their flight attendants after almost six years since it suspended the earlier version in 2004.

In fact, the sarong kebaya design is not only popular with major airlines (such as Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines), but also with smaller airlines. Malindo Air being the latest to do this in 2013.

Garuda first introduced its kebaya design in 1989. In 2000, it redesigned and launched a new version that was simpler and without the kain panjang that was placed across the shoulder.

The current version was launched in 2010 and was designed by the well-known Indonesian designer Josephine Werratie Komara (also known as Obin). She opted to go for the plain colored top and batik motive material for the sarong, with a large brooch pinned in the middle where the two lapels meet. She also chose a polyester-cotton material that is easy to maintain and is allegedly a fire-resistant material.

This form-fitting kebaya has won praises and won sixth place in the "Nicest Flight Attendant Uniform (2013)" category. The airline came in seventh in "World's Best Cabin Staff (2013)."

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The new ANA flight attendant's uniform that was introduced on April 24th, 2014The earlier ANA flight attendant's uniform that has now been replaced
The new ANA flight attendant's uniform that was introduced on April 24th, 2014
The new ANA flight attendant's uniform that was introduced on April 24th, 2014 | Source
The earlier ANA flight attendant's uniform that has now been replaced
The earlier ANA flight attendant's uniform that has now been replaced | Source

ANA All Nippon Airways Flight Attendant's Uniform

To coincide with the airline's 60th anniversary, ANA All Nippon Airways introduced the new flight attendant new uniform on April 24th 2014.

Designed by Prabal Gurung, a Nepalese-American fashion designer, the new uniform is not just for the cabin crews, but also for the ground staff. The design is simple and clean with the minimalist look that reflects ANA's corporate culture.

This is the 10th generation of ANA uniforms and the first by a foreign designer. The earlier designs were the works of the Japanese international designer Atsuro Tayama.

The new uniform is a mishmash of a light gray jacket worn over a light blue or pink blouse and charcoal skirt. Different colored scarves and aprons featuring Japanese flower patterns differentiate the flight attendants according to their seniority.

The earlier design worn before this (see above thumbnail photo) came in 10th for "Nicest Flight Attendant Uniform (2013)." Let's see how this new design fares in next year's ranking. I am not that excited with this new design. The design looks dated, just as its predecessor did.

However, performance wise, ANA's flight attendant came out top, as it was placed sixth in "World's Best Cabin Staff (2013)."

ANA, which started its operation in 1958, is the largest airline in Japan.

Your Vote on the Best Flight Attendant Uniform

Which of these airlines' flight attendant uniform is your favorite?

See results

Skytrax's Winner for "Nicest Flight Attendant Uniform"

Based on a customer poll carried out on Skytrax's Facebook page, the winner of 2013's nicest uniform goes to Singapore Airlines. Second place went to Malaysia Airline. The full results were as follows:

  1. Singapore Airline
  2. Malaysia Airlines
  3. Qatar Airlines
  4. Thai Airline
  5. Emirates
  6. Garuda Indonesia
  7. Korean Air
  8. Lufthansa
  9. Cathay Pacific Airways
  10. ANA All Nippon Airways

Do you agree with the results? What is your choice?

Where Are These Airlines From?

show route and directions
A markerThailand -
Thailand
get directions

For Thai Airways International

B markerMalaysia -
Malaysia
get directions

For Air Asia and Malaysia Airline

C markerSingapore -
Singapore
get directions

For Singapore Airline

D markerHong Kong -
Hong Kong
get directions

For Cathay Pacific Airways

E markerJapan -
Japan
get directions

For ANA All Nippon Airways

F markerKorea -
South Korea
get directions

For Asiana Airline

G markerIndonesia -
Indonesia
get directions

For Garuda Indonesia

© 2013 Mazlan

10 comments

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 2 years ago from Malaysia Author

Hi ALIA. These are all very personal and our likes and dislikes will vary. Each of these uniforms has their own merits and reflects on the corporate cultures of the airlines. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


ALIA 2 years ago

Sorry but imo Thai Airways International's outfit was just ugly o.o

I think Garuda Indonesia's kebaya was the best looking out of the three :)


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 2 years ago from Malaysia Author

Tony Kemp, looking on the brighter side of things, prices of most goods in the USA are still cheaper! Thanks for dropping by and comment


Tony Kemp 2 years ago

Everything in the U.S sux... including airlines, food, hotels...everything


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 2 years ago from Malaysia Author

Hard to say as Baju Kebaya is traditional dress worn both in Indonesia and Malaysia. Malaysia Airline had baju kebaya for their flight attendant's uniform since it first started flying, whereas Garuda Indonesia airline doesn't.


Poor Malay 2 years ago

I think Malaysia is not good, because it mimics the Indonesian kebaya outfit


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 3 years ago from Malaysia Author

teaches12345, you are not the only one, many agreed that SIA's uniform is the nicest

tirelesstraveler, I hate to say this, but you are right

MG Singh, you are right, sex appeal is one of the factor interviewers looked for during the interview. It works in Asia, not sure it is acceptable in countries such as the USA!

Thank you all for dropping by and commenting


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

I don't know which is the most pleasing but they are all so beautiful. I love the Singapore uniforms as they look very comfortable yet fashionable.


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 3 years ago from California

These uniform are lovely. American airlines don't compare at all.


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 3 years ago from Singapore

Another aspect of the dress is sex appeal. The dresses are so selected that the girls look sexy for travelers. No wonder mostly slim and good looking girls are selected. Girls without sex appeal will lead to lower volumes of traffic. Nice post

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