Middle East airlines take glamour to new heights

When my husband, an A380 pilot, goes to work, he’s accompanied by an entourage of cabin crew – I’ve lost count, but it’s something like 27, mostly women in their 20s – who manage to make that glam look seem effortless, even after a 16-hour flight.

I’ve often wondered how they do this, especially as for us hollow-eyed, travelling mums, with children barnacled to our ankles, the radiance at the end comes from the relief that the flight is over and knowing everyone’s arrived intact, rather than a lipstick refresh and spritz of makeup fix spray.

Behind the scenes, a lot of work goes into the ‘look’ you see on Middle East airlines, which count image and customer service as key components of their branding. The uniform is the starting point, and yesterday the UAE’s Etihad Airways revealed its much-anticipated new Italian-designed outfits at a catwalk show in Abu Dhabi. These photos, by a Vogue photographer, were taken among the majestic sand dunes of the emirate’s Liwa desert and on location at the Qasr al Sarab desert resort.

In-flight couture: The new uniforms to be worn by Etihad Airways flight attendants were created by Italy’s haute couturier Ettore Bilotta at his atelier in Milan

In-flight couture: The new uniforms to be worn by Etihad Airways flight attendants were created by Italy’s haute couturier Ettore Bilotta at his atelier in Milan

Made from 100 per cent Italian wool in warm chocolate brown, with deep purple accents, and accessorised with fitted gloves, belt, hat and scarf, you can see where Etihad is going with these stylish skirt suits: the look is reminiscent of the classic collections of airline crews in the heyday of international air travel, with some contemporary, modern runway-inspired twists. The new slim-line handbag, for example, is made to the dimensions of a tablet device.

Retro: The hats are inspired by the stars of the Hollywood Silver Screen as well as the sweeping formations of the Emirati desert sand dunes

Retro: The hats are inspired by the stars of the Hollywood Silver Screen as well as the sweeping formations of the Emirati desert sand dunes

Here in Dubai, at my DH’s airline, cabin crew are given a full day of training by Image and Uniform before they can even take to the skies. This is where hosties learn what products to use (primer and powder for oily skin, not liquid foundation), how to use them (SPF daily), and how to prevent the dry conditions on board from dehydrating their skin.

Emirates red: Recurrent image and uniform training helps create the desired look

Emirates red: Recurrent image and uniform training helps create the desired look

On the day of a flight, natural, daytime makeup and eye shadow in neutral shades is applied to provide an elegant base and healthy, fresh-faced complexion. But it’s the perfectly drawn smile in ‘Emirates red’ that’s the most important.

“The ladies need to find a shade of red that goes with their skin tone and uniform,” Sibille Juen, a cabin crew training specialist, tells Safar, Emirates’ staff newspaper. “We can help with that in training. We advise crew to pencil the outline of their lips with a lip liner and then fill it in with the liner before applying lipstick.”

On board, makeup fix sprays and eye gels are used to ensure makeup lasts longer and stays looking fresh. Female crew regularly reapply their signature red lipstick and on ultra-long flights often remove all their makeup during breaks in the crew rest area. They then apply a hydration pack or facemask, before putting their makeup back on again. As Marilee Vermaak, also a cabin crew training specialist, points out, “It takes sustained effort to look glamorous from the beginning of a flight to the end.”

Apparently, even the male crew moisturise regularly. So let’s see him then … an Etihad cabin boy, in his new rather dashing suit. Although what do you think the chances are that he’s straight?

Hello! A classic trench coat adds a sense of drama

Hello! A classic trench coat adds a sense of drama

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About Circles in the Sand

Sun worshiper, journalist, mother, pilot's wife and distracted housewife living in the land of glitz and sand
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4 Responses to Middle East airlines take glamour to new heights

  1. I love Etihad’s uniform too!!!

  2. iotamanhattan says:

    The uniform and the look is rather reminiscent of the jet set age, isn’t it? When was that? 1950s/60s? Or 1960s/70s? Like in the film “Catch Me if you Can”. There was such glamour and kudos attached to being in the air industry.

    • You’re right Iota – I shouldn’t call them hosties anymore, but they’re definitely still pretty glam out here. But in the US, they’re like bored Joan Rivers lookalikes pushing their way up the aisle with a headache! x

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