Passengers on Tuesday's QF12 flight from Los Angeles to Sydney are in for a change of eras as well as timezones during their 14-hour flight. As the clock strikes 12 on Wednesday night, Sydney time, all working Qantas cabin and ground crew will don new uniforms, bidding farewell to the Peter Morrissey dresses and suits they have worn for 10 years.
The change comes at a time of turmoil for Qantas, which plans to cut at least 1000 jobs over the next year and warns it will lose $300 million in the first half of the financial year. Despite this, it is combining advertisements and social media as part of a $72 million, three-year global marketing push.
Olivia Wirth, Qantas group executive for brand, marketing and corporate affairs, said the campaign was focusing on "the simple reasons people choose to travel with us every day as an airline".
A spokesman from the Transport Workers Union said the union supported the campaign "but we think it's a tragedy that they have to do it as a consequence of some very poor decisions".
The new Martin Grant-designed outfits, with their fitted fuschia, "Qantas red", ruby red and French navy panelled shift dresses, jaunty trilby hats and red-lined navy trench coats are a departure from the indigenous print, loose-fitting dresses and blazers designed by Morrissey in 2003.
Reclothing 11,500 staff has been, in the words of uniform project manager Katya Noble, "a labour of love," beginning in August 2011 with the selection of Mr Grant.
Each of the airline's ground and cabin staff, across 85 locations in 21 countries, required 23 new uniform items. Australian merino wool has been used in some of the 35 designs across 400,000 pieces.
"It's been overwhelming because of its volume and complexity," Ms Noble said. "It's like a jigsaw puzzle, most designers can't do that," she said of Mr Grant's input. "He's never shied away from it. He's worked tirelessly to make sure it is perfect."
The shift dresses have been criticised by some staff for being too figure-hugging.
"Uniforms are emotive. To try to get everyone across the line and on the same page has been at times like bending yourself into a pretzel," Ms Noble said.