EDITORIAL – ‘Runway fashion’: Keeping up appearances at Cayman Airways

It is often said that to understand someone, you should “put yourself in their shoes.”

But if that person is a Cayman Airways flight attendant, you’d better make sure those shoes are clean and polished, plain black leather or leather-like, with no buckles or designs, and having heels – if you’re a woman – no less than two and no more than three inches in height, and – if you’re a man – no more than one inch in height.

Whew. We already feel exhausted, and that’s before taking one step down the narrow aisle.

Shoes are only a small aspect of the national airline’s recently updated 14-page list of “appearance and grooming” standards, which regulate everything from crew members’ weight to the type of lapel pins they can wear while on duty. Many of the requirements are reasonable, but others read more like Hammurabi’s code than a dress code, as if a room full of Maples’s finest attorneys brainstormed every potential misstep in hygiene or attire a crew member might make, and wrote guidelines pre-empting such horrors.

We understand, for example, requirements that crew members’ weight be proportionate to their height. Airplane cabins are, after all, small spaces in which to maneuver and it’s important the crew can do so easily and safely. Similarly, we are grateful that crew members “remain free of any disagreeable body odors” and “maintain a high standard of oral hygiene and care.” (See “small spaces,” above.)

Crew members are highly visible representatives of Cayman Airways and the Cayman Islands – as such, they are ambassadors for our country and the country’s airline. Thus, we see the value in maintaining a high quality of appearance, conduct and presentation. We grant that a professional appearance can convey an authority that would encourage passengers to behave with decorum and – in the event of an emergency – trust and follow crew members’ urgent instructions.

But we are bemused by regulations, such as those of women’s hairstyles, which are more detailed than the cabin safety procedures passengers are subjected to at the beginning of every flight. (If you don’t know how to fasten a seatbelt by now, perhaps flying (or driving) is not really your gig.)

It’s true that crew members handling in-flight meals shouldn’t be doing so with hair flying in every direction (particularly into the meals – even if it is just a meager “cheese plate” – and we’re talking “business class”!), but surely they can be trusted to choose their own hair accessories.

And while we generally agree that “special attention must be given to hands and fingernails as they are in constant view of the customer,” we wonder what, exactly, is the “Platonically ideal” length for a female crew member’s manicure? Is it one-quarter inch past the finger, as is required of Cayman crew members? An eighth of an inch, as Hawaiian Airlines requires, or the luxuriant half-inch length allowed crew members on United? Perhaps a special committee (or more likely, subcommittee) should be empaneled to resolve these pressing inconsistencies.

Why should Cayman Airways crew be limited to a maximum of two gold or silver rings of moderate size when the crew over at United are allowed up to four – even if Cayman crew can consider as one ring a wedding band and engagement ring, provided they are worn on the same finger? (If we were running either Kirk Freeport or Magnum Jewelers, we’d be howling. The more rings, the better!)

Should we be comforted or disturbed by the fact that American Airlines requires crew members to remove any noticeable hair in their nostrils and ears, while Cayman Airways regulations are completely silent about the issue? We can’t decide. What we do know is that hairy noses are hardly de rigueur – at any altitude.

With all the rules they must adhere to, it’s a miracle that Cayman crew members are able to maintain excellent complexions through “proper care, rest and diet,” as is required.

We joke, but reading the guidelines has given us a renewed admiration and respect for the consistently high standard of service provided by the friendly cabin crew members of Cayman Airways. We like them, and we appreciate what they do.

Not everyone would be able to do the same “in their shoes” … and far fewer, with a smile

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