Vueling, a low-cost airline based in Spain, was fined more than $30,000 last month for a dress code that local authorities identified as discriminatory.
First reported by El Periódico, the Catalan labor department said the airline placed an undue burden on its female flight attendants by requiring them to wear high heels (between 1 and 3 inches) and specifying what kind of makeup they could apply, including “low-key” lipstick shades and prohibiting especially long or fake-looking false eyelashes.
In contrast, male flight attendants were only required to have a “clean and neat” appearance, according to local reports.
According to El Periódico, it’s the first time Spanish authorities have tried to regulate airline employee appearance standards. The fine comes after the flight attendant’s union filed a complaint with labor authorities.
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A spokesperson for Vueling told Aero Time that the airline wants to ensure its crews feel comfortable.
“We always consider any concerns that our crew may have and these are factored into decision-making and implementation,” the spokesperson said. “The company’s aim with the dress code is to always ensure comfort and safety in all environments. In fact, the style guide was drafted with the cooperation of the crew member representatives.”
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Dress codes have been an inflection point at many airlines in recent years as carriers including JetBlue, American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways have relaxed their standards and given crews more leeway in choosing how to dress. Many carriers now allow flight attendants to choose any uniform option regardless of gender, and give crews more leeway on makeup options and showing tattoos.
Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org