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Asiana Attendants Fight for the Right to Wear Pants

Asiana’s discriminatory pants ban is under attack.

Asiana, South Korea’s second-largest airline, doesn’t permit its female flight attendants to wear pants. But South Korea’s human rights commission has decreed that the carrier should start letting female cabin crew wear trousers, according to a report from The Huffington Post.

The decision backs up a complaint filed by a union representing the airline’s female flight attendants, which requests that Asiana soften its draconian dress rules. The airline’s 10-page fashion rulebook for woman flight attendants stipulates that female crew may not wear glasses, must cover up facial imperfections with makeup, must have manicured nails, and must adhere to specified earring-length standards. Asiana said it has recently eased some of the rules, including the glasses restriction. But the pants ban persists. The men’s uniform guide, by the way, is only two pages long.

The attendants’ concerns go beyond inequality. In March, around the time when Asiana won the 2011 World Airline Award for best cabin staff, an anonymous Asiana flight attendant told CNNGo, “There are many cases when we have to stand up and sit down in front of our passengers which makes it not only uncomfortable, but sometimes dangerous.”

Asiana’s defense, reports HuffPost, is this: “Asiana said that its skirt-only policy was meant to emphasize the company’s brand of ‘high-class Korean beauty.’ It said aesthetic elements such as the appearance of female flight attendants are part of its service for passengers and an essential tool for staying competitive.”

Do female flight attendants in skirts really give Asiana a leg up on the competition? Of course not. Passengers aren’t choosing tickets based on crew uniforms. Any passengers that do have (1) money to burn and (2) a narrow-minded view of the role of female cabin crew. Fliers care most about price point and cabin comfort, not skirts. This is why Hooter Airlines is out of commission.

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(Photo: Jun Seita via flickr/CC Attribution)

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