Delta rolls out new Zac Posen-designed employee uniforms

Delta Air Lines rolled out the new uniforms that employees will wear on flights and at airports around the world with a Tuesday morning fashion show at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The new color is a dark purple shade called "Passport Plum," a combination of the traditional blue and red of major U.S. carriers.

Atlanta-based Delta has spent the last three years working with designer Zac Posen to design the uniforms, test them on employees, make adjustments and hold fittings.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the airline’s investment in the new uniforms for 64,000 workers “is probably in the $20 million range.”

Posen, Bastian and Spanx founder Sara Blakely spoke about the uniform roll-out during the fashion show at the Atlanta's airport international terminal early Tuesday morning. Atlanta-based Spanx partnered with Delta for hosiery worn with uniforms.

Posen said passport plum was originally “a highlight color” in Delta’s uniform collection. “Then it got expanded out… to multiple pieces.”

“Zac is bringing fashion and glamour back to the airlines,” Bastian said. “It’s a sophisticated look. It’s elegant. It’s much more international in orientation. Our aspirations are to be a top global carrier, not just a top U.S. carrier.”

The roll-out plans included fashion shows on board a flight to Delta’s hub in Minneapolis and a flight to its hub in Los Angeles on Tuesday, as well as at the gate in Minneapolis.

A uniform launch party in Los Angeles was planned for Tuesday evening with hundreds of employees.

The last time Delta changed uniforms for flight attendants and customer service employees was in 2006. Baggage handlers and mechanics are also getting new uniforms.

Such a drastic change for tens of thousands of employees carries with it some risk.

American Airlines came under fire for uniforms that some employees and unions said caused rashes, burning, itching or wheezing. That led to a lawsuit, and American Airlines agreed to let unions choose a new uniform vendor.

Delta had 1,000 of its workers act as “wear testers,” trying out the uniforms on the job, and made more than 165 changes based on feedback over three years. The company then shipped three semi-trucks worth of uniforms to Atlanta and 15 other cities for employee fittings.

The purple shade comes as a shock to some. Employees who helped develop the new uniforms acknowledge some will need time to adjust.

The change came after Delta conducted a study and found that even frequent travelers could not pick out Delta’s uniformed employees from United’s and American’s.

“It’s a sea of navy out there with a lot of domestic carriers,” said Delta employee Chad Holmes.

With the new uniforms and the plum color, Bastian said, “We want to stand out. We want to make a statement.”

Facts on Delta uniforms

  • Delta employees — including flight attendants, airport customer service employees, baggage handlers, cargo workers and maintenance workers — began wearing new uniforms Tuesday. Pilot uniforms do not change.
  • The new color added to the Delta uniform is called "Passport Plum." It's one of seven colors, including gray, red and white, that make up Delta's look.
  • Delta has changed its uniforms 71 times since 1934.

Source: Delta Air Lines