American Airlines has received reports from nearly 100 pilots claiming that their new uniforms are causing them rashes, itching and other symptoms similar to those experienced by hundreds of flight attendants.
According to Dennis Tajer, an Allied Pilots Association spokesman, pilots have recently reported having red, swollen eyes and a general feeling of sickness despite wearing their new uniforms since September. The union plans to survey its members this week for feedback, and then make recommendations regarding a response from the airline.
“They have to be fit for duty,” Tajer said Wednesday. “If the uniform is making them not fit for duty, then something has to change.”
American has declined to recall the clothing it distributed—1.5 million pieces to 70,000 employees—in its first major uniform change in 30 years.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants reports receiving complaints from more than 3,000 of its members since the uniforms were issued. American’s numbers differ, with the airline contending that they have received complaints from about 800, including four pilots.
“Whatever they find in their survey, we’re happy to meet and discuss it with them,” said Ron Defeo, a spokesman for American Airlines Group Inc. “We’ve shown we’re willing to work and find solutions. We’d do the same with pilots.”
The new uniforms were supplied by Twin Hill, a unit of Tailored Brands Inc., which has been working with American and the flight attendants’ union on testing the garments since employees began reporting reactions. To date, they have found nothing that might be the cause of the health issues.
The airline offered employees several options to replace uniform garments, including an alternate supplier for flight attendants and customer-service agents. Non-wool and cotton versions of uniforms from Twin Hill have been issued to pilots, and American is working to provide an additional option. Employees have also been advised that they may wear old uniforms.
Tajer noted that a couple of pilots became ill enough that they could not fly, and others reported that they experienced symptoms only while wearing the uniforms.
“We don’t know what we’re going to find out,” he said. “It’s certainly not the same numbers as the flight attendants, but there is some real concern that there’s a bigger problem out there.”
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