With their glossy red lipstick, neatly pulled-back hair and sensible shoes, Cayman Airways cabin crew are among the most immaculately turned out attendants in the business. The look and style of the national carrier’s front-line employees is no accident, however.
Everything from flight attendants’ hairstyles to their weight and the length of their fingernails is carefully regulated through rules laid out in a 14-page “appearance and grooming” handbook.
Employees can face disciplinary action and even dismissal if they fail to keep their weight within set limits, according to the latest regulations, issued June 12.
According to the guidelines, seen by the Cayman Compass, all cabin crew will be required to attend an “evaluation interview” every six months to discuss any problems relating to health, weight, appearance and grooming.
“A cabin crew member’s weight will be in proportion to their height. Failure to comply will lead to termination of employment due to the safety aspects involved,” the employee manual states.
A list of suggested and maximum weights for male and female crew members is included with the guidelines.
For a 5-foot, 4-inch-tall female, the recommended weight is 127 pounds and the maximum weight is 151 pounds. For a 5-foot, 10-inch male, the suggested weight is 172 pounds and the maximum weight is 180 pounds.
The manual states that these restrictions are because of space issues on the aircraft’s aisle and jumpseats.
It states that suspension of travel benefits and other disciplinary action, up to and including termination, can follow if “safety is compromised” due to a crew member’s “excessive weight” and no medical condition is proven.
The same consequences face employees who are apparently unwilling to implement a “determined and ongoing endeavor to reduce their body weight to within the required weight and time limits.”
The manual also regulates hair length, makes lipstick and makeup mandatory for women, bans visible tattoos and urges employees to “remain free of disagreeable body odors.”
The introduction to the handbook states, “As a representative of Cayman Airways and the Cayman Islands, it is important that each cabin crew member adopt and maintain the highest standard of general appearance, conduct and presentation as required and stipulated by the company and in accordance with the contractual agreement between cabin crew members and the company.”
It says there will be “disciplinary measures” leading to “termination” for deviation from grooming requirements and uniform standards.
A 16-point guide on female hairstyles dictates that hair must be grown to such a length that it can be secured in a bun, and mandates that employees take protective measures to avoid discoloration.
No extreme styles, braids, dreadlocks or shaved heads are allowed, and men must get specific management approval for any facial hair. Goatees and beards are not allowed, and mustaches may not extend beyond the corner of the mouth.
For women, nails must be polished and of conservative length, “not exceeding a quarter inch from the tip of the finger.” A maximum of two rings, two bracelets and one pair of stud earrings are allowed for women; earrings are banned for men.
Makeup is required to achieve a color-coordinated balance with the uniform, the manual states.
“Tastefully chosen and skillfully applied makeup is required at all times while on duty. Use of base foundation, mascara, lipstick, blush and eye shadow are mandatory.”
Cayman Airways is not the only airline to place strict restriction on the appearance of its cabin crew.
According to an article in the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph, it is relatively common for airlines to require flight staff to maintain a body weight in proportion to their height.
Hawaiian Airlines restricts nail length to an eighth of an inch, according to the article, while Etihad Airlines requires its staff to have an “arm reach of 212 cm” (just under 7 feet).
Indian airline Jet Airways is reported to require an unmarried status for “inexperienced” crew, while Qatar Airways recently relaxed its controversial policies under which cabin crew would be sacked if they became pregnant or got married within the first five years of employment, the Telegraph reported.
Other guidelines are put in place for emergency situations. Ireland’s RyanAir requires cabin crew to pass a swimming test, while Brazilian carrier TAM Airlines reportedly puts its crew through jungle survival training in case a plane goes down.
Some of the restrictions are potentially subject to labor and human rights challenges based on age, weight or gender discrimination. However, such legislation usually includes a carve-out for situations where such issues affect the ability of an employee to do the job.
For example, Cayman’s Labour Law states that employees cannot be discriminated against or treated differently based on race, color, creed, sex, pregnancy, age, mental or physical disability.
But a secondary clause states, “This shall not be construed as prohibiting the taking of any personnel action genuinely related to an employee’s ability to discharge the duties of the employment in question.