One of the benefits of traveling on a country’s flag carrier is getting an inside look at the culture. From the food and beverage selection to the onboard entertainment, it’s a real eye opening experience on some national carriers. Plus, there are the flight attendants. Hey, wait, this isn’t that kind of blog! What I’m talking about is their uniforms, or err… lack there of in the case of New Zealand. (Ok, so maybe today it is that kind of a blog! And yes, that is body paint!)
Sure it seems a little old-fashioned to be talking about the glamour of airline travel, the last few domestic flights I’ve taken have been anything but glamorous, but there is something about international travel that still has some sort of panache about it. Is it the fact that dinner is served will real silverware? The fact that you can choose your movie? The extra legroom? The uniforms?
All over Asia I was surprised at the upscale nature of airline travel. The national carriers seemed to focus on being ambassadors, reinforcing cultural sterotypes, both good and bad. Often flight attendants on these carriers wore a traditional uniform, a pleasant surprise and interesting peak into their culture. While we don’t have a national flag carrier here in the U.S., (and if we did what on earth would they wear? denim on denim? I shudder to think…) many other countries do and we were fortunate enough to fly some of them. So here’s an interesting peak into cultures around the world…. through the flight attendants uniform.
Due to some unforseen circumstances, we ended up flying twice in Vietnam. We were lucky enough to snag an inexpensive fare on Vietnam Airlines, whose flight attendants wear traditional ao dai’s. Although western fashion is popular in Vietnam, the ao dai has staged a serious comeback in the last twenty years. Beauty is really important in Asian societies (I’ve never seen so many creams before in my life!), and as a western woman it was really great to see the country embrace it’s traditional dress. Plus it’s red, which is a good luck color in Asia!
Flying Air India wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences. That could be party due to the fact that our flight into and out of the country were in the middle of the night. Anyway, these brightly colored outfits had me prepared for the intensity of India.
Ok, so we were budget travelers and chose Air Asia instead. Which was no-fills, but got us to where we were going. What we did miss out on was the Malaysian flight attendant’s uniform. A brightly colored tropical outfit that to me completely adheres to my idea of a picturesque tropical paradise. Ok I’ll admit, I loved the 24 hours we spent in Kuala Lumpur.
I find Iranian history and modern society fascinating. Although we didn’t get to go, here’s a picture of their flight crew.
Now contrast Iran Air with Emirates… that’s a cultural and religious discussion if I’ve ever seen one.
Does your country have a national carrier? Do their uniforms perpetuate stereotypes or break them down?