Facing an uncertain future and very much in the red, Alitalia has unveiled new uniforms which bring the airline back to navy.
The new look for cabin and ground staff was designed by Italian designer Alberta Ferretti and debuted during Milan fashion week. It would be largely indistinguishable from other airlines’ navy wardrobes except for the very prominent Alitalia logo ribbon on the cuffs and waist of the ladies’ jackets.
Scarves and ties with red and green patterns also evoke the airline brand colours. Satin gold buttons on the jackets embossed with an “A” for Alitalia fit the military cut of the new style, a common theme for airline uniforms over the decades.
It was only two years ago that Alitalia, still backed by the Etihad Aviation Group, put on its own fashion show in Rome to debut an ambitious uniform collection designed by Milan-based haute couturier Ettore Bilotta. Those uniforms aspired to the glamour of the golden age of air travel fashion featuring a stylish cut, complemented by elegant details and accessories. There wasn’t a hint of navy in sight. Instead, the women’s uniforms and accessories were red and green with landscape shades in grey and brown for gentlemen.
In 2016, the airline claimed that these uniforms would “be timeless and enduring”. They certainly promised to be, but time is a funny thing.
According to Alitalia, the costume change is primarily driven by crew complaints over the Bilotta uniforms.
“The new Alitalia collection stems from the need to meet the numerous requests coming from the operating personnel, with the objective of improving the quality of work of those who wear them daily,” the airline states. “The uniforms combine both practicality and elegance to guarantee the ground personnel and the inflight crew comfort and well-being for all work occasions and through every season.”
In the end, that is what matters most. Staff also had a say in the design process.
“The new uniforms represent the work of thousands of co-workers and colleagues who perform the very crucial of ensuring that passengers experience unique and high-quality travel every day. For this reason, we deem it necessary to guarantee the utmost comfort and well-being during their daily activities,” said Fabio Maria Lazzerini, Chief Commercial Officer and Revenue Management of Alitalia.
Everything about these new Alitalia uniforms is functional, except perhaps for the gift-wrapping of the jacket ribbon at the waist.
As American Airlines has learned, it is ill-advised to ignore crew complaints over uniform comfort.
While it might be nice for airlines to distract from other things going on by debuting uniforms, staff have to wear these outfits every day. It’s far more important that they look neat – if conventional – and feel great.
But navy is not the only shade under the sun. As Delta and other airlines have shown, it is possible to leave dark blues behind.
Ferretti is doing her part to keep Alitalia going. She is promoting the national airline with an exclusive Alitalia capsule line of tops emblazoned with a very prominent Alitalia logo. They retail at 168 Euros for the T-shirt, 350 Euros for the sweatshirt and 420 Euros for the sweater. At those prices, they sure beat old-school fundraising. The airline has not confirmed the terms of the contract with Ferretti, but Alitalia would be foolish not to get licensing revenue out of this consumer line.
For anyone interested in adding one of these Alitalia pieces to their wardrobe, the sweatshirt and sweater are navy—a colour that goes with everything.
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