Delta Air Lines, in a move meant to fortify its image as a premier global carrier, debuted new uniforms for 64,000 of its workers on flights and at airports worldwide Tuesday.
The Atlanta-based carrier celebrated the launch of its new collection, created by well-known clothing designer Zac Posen, with a traveling fashion show that started in its hometown early Tuesday before making a stop at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the airline’s second-biggest hub by traffic volume.
Posen incorporated a hue of dark purple, dubbed “passport plum,” into the airline’s new uniform collection, straying from the navy blue and red typically worn by employees of major U.S. carriers. It’s a flourish the carrier hopes will help visually set it apart from its competitors as Delta continues its quest of becoming a more global, sophisticated airline.
“Delta wanted a uniform that stood out from all other carriers,” said Posen. “They wanted a new color added to it. When we combined the [company’s signature] red and blue together, that’s how we got passport plum.”
Delta has not changed the look of its uniforms since 2006 for above-wing employees — which includes flight attendants, ticketing agents and gate agents. It’s been nearly two decades since the airline last changed the uniforms for its below-wing workers, like maintenance, ramp and baggage handlers, in 2000. About 80 percent of all Delta’s employees will don the new threads.
As the first new uniform launch since the Delta-Northwest Airlines merger in 2009, the company also hopes it will be a unifying step for its work crews, said Tim Mapes, Delta’s chief marketing officer.
“It’s very clear from looking at the uniforms now that they are all from one place,” Mapes said.
Lands’ End, the catalog and online apparel retailer, manufactured the uniforms. The Dodgeville, Wis.-based clothing company also designed all of the below-wing outfits, drawing inspiration from Posen’s designs for the above-wing crews.
The launch comes nearly two years after the airline unveiled the collection in 2016. Since then, the airline has tested the uniforms on about 1,000 Delta workers performing a variety of jobs. Posen and Lands’ End design teams gathered recommendations from more than 30,000 surveys and made about 170 changes to the designs as they originally appeared to the public.
Posen said he received feedback from employees on every possible social media channel and on every flight — he said he always flies Delta — he’s taken in the last few years.
The collection includes 100 different pieces, from the name bars (or wings) to the leather women’s bags for flight attendants. Lands’ End has made about 1.2 million individual pieces for this initial rollout.
Delta is Lands’ End’s largest corporate client to date with the most total employees wearing their products, said Joe Ferreri, senior vice president of Lands’ End Outfitters, the business unit that makes corporate and school uniforms.
Originally the plum color was meant to be an accent, but gradually expanded to become one of the most pervasive colors in the collection.
“The purple has a sophistication that is not like your traditional navy [blue] like every other carrier,” Posen said.
The airline stressed a “meticulous” process for ensuring its uniforms are high quality. This launch comes in the wake of American Airlines’ legal and public relations nightmare over its botched rollout of new uniforms for its 51,000 front-line employees two years ago. Thousands of flight attendants and crew members filed complaints with the airline, saying the uniforms made them sick. American announced in January it had selected Lands’ End to make replacements.
Delta said Tuesday that it, along with third-party consultants, audited every factory producing any elements of the new uniforms. Referring to the situation competitor American found itself in, Mapes said they “clearly didn’t implement that same level of review.”
Ferreri of Lands’ End said that Delta’s trust in them as a company likely helped land the American account, too.
Tuesday’s festivities ended in Los Angeles with a retrospective fashion show, highlighting Delta’s uniforms through the years.