When airlines unveil a new uniform for their cabin crew, it's typically a big deal.
Over the years, the world's airlines have increasingly looked to well-known fashion designers to create glamorous looks for their flight attendants. Qantas has uniforms by Martin Grant, Virgin Australia by Project Runway Australia winner Julie Grbac.
But in the era of COVID-19, fashion has taken a back seat to functionality, if AirAsia's new-look uniforms are anything to go by.
Designed by Filipino fashion designer Puey Quinones, the uniforms are designed to protect cabin crew from contracting the coronavirus from passengers.
Quinones posted images of the unveiling on his Instagram account. The Los Angeles-based designer has stuck with the airline's signature bright red for the new uniforms, which feature personal protective equipment (PPE) in the form of hoods, gloves, masks and face shields.
The uniforms have reportedly been approved by the Philippines government for use on flights.
According to the airline, AirAsia Philippines initiated a trial run of the uniforms on recent recovery flights, but whether it will be used on regular commercial services when they resume is yet to be confirmed, pending further assessments of the design.
AirAsia announced it would shortly resume domestic flights in Malaysia, starting on Wednesday, with Thailand (May 1), India (May 4), Indonesia (May 7) and the Philippines (May 16) following shortly after, subject to approval from authorities.
"We have undertaken a thorough review of our guest handling procedures both on ground and onboard in light of the Covid-19 pandemic," said AirAsia group president Bo Lingham.
"We have been working closely with the airport authorities to ensure that all the relevant precautionary measures are in place to ensure a safe, pleasant and comfortable journey for everyone."
The airline advises passengers to wear masks, practice social distancing and maintain high levels of personal hygiene. AirAsia's planes are fitted with hospital-standard High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which "will be sent for a thorough disinfection after each flight" according to the airline.
The new uniforms are likely to please some of AirAsia's conservative critics, who have complained that the regular uniforms are too revealing, with some Malaysian government figures claiming the uniforms conflict with the country's Muslim values.
In January, Malaysian Senator Hanafi Mamat claimed he had received a letter from a New Zealand doctor complaining about the uniforms. However, after the senator posted the letter on Facebook, causing the story to be reported worldwide, further investigation raised the possibility that the doctor may not have been a real person.
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