After being inundated with complaints from employees who said their uniforms caused itching, wheezing and other problems, American Airlines has decided to let its unions choose the next vendor.
Thousands of flight attendants, ground workers and pilots reported allergic reactions to the uniforms produced by Twin Hill, prompting the Fort Worth-based carrier to end its partnership with the manufacturer and seek a new company to produce its uniforms.
“We’re working together with each union to select a Frontline Uniform Advisory Team to shape our long-term solution toward a uniform that all team members wear with confidence,” the carrier said in a letter sent to employees on Monday.
American said it already narrowed its vendor search to 22 potential suppliers and each union will select five as finalists. The company said the process will take several months and include factory visits by union leaders and employees.
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Once a vendor is chosen, American said more than 1,000 employees, including those who have reported allergic reactions to the current uniforms, will participate in testing the new uniforms. It will take a couple of years before American will be able to switch to a new uniform as its vendors will need to make almost 2 million new uniform pieces.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American’s 26,000 flight attendants, said it has met with management on a regular basis to help select uniforms that are “safe and reliable” for all flight attendants.
“Although the process will take longer than we would like, the company’s announcement meant that all flight attendants represented by APFA would now receive a new uniform many years ahead of when a new uniform would otherwise have been introduced,” the union said.
Earlier this month, two American Airlines flight attendants sued Twin Hill, asking a court to order a full recall of the uniforms they say caused serious allergic reactions. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Chicago, requested class action status for the more than 4,000 flight attendants and pilots who have reported health problems with the uniforms.
Houston-based Twin Hill has said it stands by the safety of its uniforms that were manufactured at factories that supply millions of garments for its corporate apparel group.